Civil Rights Pioneer Dolores Huerta Headlines Fall Spartan Speaker Series

by | Aug 23, 2022 | Campus Life

Dolores Huerta stands in front of SJSU’s Arch of Dignity, Equality and Justice at its official unveiling in 2008. Huerta will be speaking on campus in October. Photo by Robert C. Bain.

Trailblazing civil rights advocate Dolores Huerta will deliver a special keynote address at San José State University as part of the fall 2022 Spartan Speaker Series. The October 11 event coincides with SJSU’s Legacy Month and offers students the chance to ask Huerta questions in person or online.

Huerta, who co-founded the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) with César Chávez, directed the organization’s national grape boycott that led to the establishment of a three-year collective bargaining agreement with the California table grape industry in 1970. 

The Central Valley native is credited with coining the phrase “Sí se puede!” (“Yes we can!”), a rallying cry for community organizers, farmworkers and activists alike. President Obama awarded her the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given to civilians in the United States, in recognition of her decades-long commitment to the labor movement. Huerta’s image is immortalized in a 2008 portrait by Chicana artist Judy Baca on the Arch of Dignity, Equality and Justice alongside Chávez and Mahatma Gandhi.

“We are delighted to welcome Dolores Huerta back to SJSU this fall,” said Patrick Day, vice president of student affairs. “Her fearless and determined advocacy of farmworkers, justice and human rights serves as a powerful example for our students.” 

Diana Victa, ’10 Sociology, department manager of SJSU’s César E. Chávez Community Action Center, recalls meeting Huerta at her last visit to campus in 2016.

“She is a very humble person, especially considering all the work she’s done with the United Farm Workers,” said Victa, who is coordinating the event and will be moderating the audience Q&A following Huerta’s talk. 

“When we started thinking about who we wanted to bring for Legacy Month, which recognizes the history and importance of student activism at SJSU, she was one of the first people that came to mind. We’re trying to get students to think about what it means to be civically engaged, especially with upcoming elections.”

Huerta’s keynote is the third Spartan Speaker Series event this semester, a program of the Division of Student Affairs supported by the Diaz Compean Student Union, Inc.

Learn more about SJSU’s Spartan Speaker Series.

Fall Spartan Speaker Series Schedule

An Evening with Ashley Park
Grammy- and Tony-nominated actress, “Emily in Paris”
Wednesday, Aug. 31, 5:15 p.m., online event

Youth Climate Advocacy: Creating Change
Xiutezcatl Martinez, Indigenous environmental activist and hip hop artist
Wednesday, Sept. 14, 7 p.m., online event

Legacy Month Keynote: An Evening with Dolores Huerta
sponsored by the César E. Chávez Community Action Center
Activist, co-founder of the United Farm Workers
Tuesday, Oct. 11, 6 p.m., Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom and online

Defending Tribal Land and Indigenous Rights
Tara Houska, Tribal attorney and Indigenous rights activist
Wednesday, Nov. 16, 6 p.m., Student Union Theater and online

Events are free and open to the public.

Learn more about the fall 2022 Spartan Speaker Series.