San Diego shipyard announcement
Navy secretary, Chavez family unveil Navy’s
newest cargo ship: USNS Cesar Chavez
Members of Cesar Chavez’s family and the current president of the United Farm Workers of America joined Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus Wednesday at the General Dynamics NASSCA shipyard in the Barrio Logan neighborhood of San Diego to announce that the Navy’s next new ship will be named USNS Cesar Chavez.
The Cesar Chavez Foundation observed that he was a humble man who was uncomfortable being singled out for praise because, as his widow Helen Chavez said, “he knew there were many Cesar Chavezes, so many men and women in the movement who made great sacrifices and achieved great things,” but whose names are largely unknown. So the Chavez family and the farm worker movement acknowledged the naming of USNS Cesar Chavez on behalf of all Latinos who helped build America and served their country.
Designated T-AKE 14, Cesar Chavez will be the 14th of the Lewis and Clark class supply ship being built by General Dynamics NASSCO. Cesar Chavez will be designated as a United States Naval Ship (USNS), and operated by the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. T-AKE 14 is designed to operate independently for extended periods at sea, and can carry two helicopters and their crews. The ship is 689 feet in length, has a waterline beam of 105.6 feet, displaces approximately 41,000 tons, and is capable of reaching a speed of 20 knots.
"Cesar Chavez inspired young Americans to do what is right and what is necessary to protect our freedoms and our country," said Mabus. "The Cesar Chavez will sail hundreds of thousands of miles, and will bring support and assistance to thousands upon thousands of people. His example will live on in this great ship."
“This proud ship will honor one American,” said Paul F. Chavez, Cesar’s son and president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation. “But the story of my father’s family is a lot like the story of so many other immigrants, especially Latinos. They came to America seeking a better life. In so doing, they brought to their new land a fervent patriotism that has been demonstrated over and over again throughout the storied history of our nation. My dad was like many Latinos and African Americans from his generation who returned home in the years following World War II determined to see that the country for which they sacrificed lived up to its promise as a beacon to the nations of equality and freedom.”
Like his hero, Mahatma Gandhi, “Cesar Chavez was an apostle of nonviolence,” Paul Chavez said. “No one yearns for peace more than those who get sent in harms way during times of war. So it is our hope that this ship will fill out its service during a time when it can help promote peace and democracy in the world.”
Paul Chavez said his father’s “example of nonviolently struggling to fulfill the promise of America for farm workers carried over into other arenas where Latinos battled to realize the promise of equally—in housing, in business, in law, in politics, in government, in the military and in the promise of a quality education for their kids. That is why we must now enact the DREAM Act, so the sons and daughters of immigrants who contribute to America by achieving a college education or serving their country in the armed forces can also earn the right to legal status and citizenship—because among them there are many Cesar Chavezes.”
Also gathering for the observance in San Diego with the Navy secretary were a number of Chavez family members, including Cesar’s brother, Richard Chavez, his daughter, Sylvia Delgado, as well as nephews, nieces and others from the family. UFW President Arturo Rodriguez was also in attendance.
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