Dennis Chávez

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Dennis Chávez

Dionisio "Dennis" Chávez (April 8, 1888 – November 18, 1962) was an American politician who served in the United States House of Representatives from 1931 to 1935, and in the United States Senate from 1935 to 1962. He was the first Hispanic to be elected to a full term in the US Senate and the first US Senator to be born in New Mexico, which was still a US territory at the time of his birth.

Quotes[edit]

Speaking at Congress in 1945[edit]

Speaking at Congress in 1945, in Deborah Gillan Straub, Voices of Multicultural America: Notable Speeches Delivered by African, Asian, Hispanic and Native Americans, 1790-1995 (1995).

  • of all the issues confronting our country today, the issue of racial and religious discrimination is at once the most neglected and the most critical. There is no victory over Hitler and Tojo which by itself will erase the injustice of economic discrimination practiced against the minority groups among our people. Full employment without fair employment means the fastening of religious and racial minorities to the bottom rung of the economic ladder regardless of their education, abilities, and skills. Unemployment compensation will not break down the barrier of prejudice. There is nothing in the so-called GI bill of rights which will protect the returning two millions of minority veterans from the pattern of job discrimination which exists in this country. We in this nation stand at a crossroads in history. Either we will take the road which will lead us past another goalpost of human progress or we will be forced into the path riddled with the pitfalls of human hatreds which led Europe into World War II. We shall not be permitted to stand still. Whichever road we take will be for you, the people, to choose.
  • Every great crisis in American history has thus far had the moral result of increased protection and increased liberty for the individual. This country's first great crisis-the American Revolution-gave us political and religious independence. The crisis which was the Civil War gave us freedom from bondage for all menand women. Out of the crisis of the First World War came women's suffrage. Out of this World War II, with all its terrifying implications, comes: What?
  • The translation into law of the new concepts of religious and economic liberty was not easily achieved any more than the enactment of fair-employment legislation will be easily won. Rigid religious conformity was woven into the law of some of the separate colonies, and rebellious sects were driven forth to found new colonies where religious freedom could flourish. At one point, Catholics and Jews were not allowed to vote. For many years people without property were denied the franchise. But the ideal of freedom was not to be downed, and when the crisis which precipitated the American Revolution came about
  • No discrimination was shown by the Japanese enemy in his treatment of the Negro or the Jew or the Mexican or the so-called Anglo-Saxon stock-he murdered them all irrespective of their religion, color, or politics. On the beachheads of Tarawa, Okinawa, or Guam there was no discrimination. Along the sandbanks of Anzio no discrimination was shown by the German or any other common enemy. But here in our own country by people who should know better, and do know better, discrimination at times becomes rampant. Even now, the ugly head of racial and religious prejudice shows itself too vividly to be ignored. To outlaw the discriminatory employment practices stemming from racial and religious bigotry is the new task which must now engage us.
  • These senators, recognizing that the tide of human progress has out-paced them, would try to stem its onrush by the extreme tactic of filibustering the bill.
  • What we want most now is action. We know that practices growing out of discrimination and intolerance, which are thoroughly un-American, must not be allowed to continue.
  • We have just fought a great war to a successful conclusion. It would be a national disaster and humiliation if those who have fought valiantly abroad to defend the freedom and dignity of the individual against racial barbarism should now come home to find that the bringing of peace meant a wiping out of the antidiscrimination policy that we achieved in wartime. Today we stand embarked upon the task of reconversion for peace. Shall we reconvert to racial prejudice, national bigotry, and religious discrimination, or shall we reconvert to full peacetime employment based on the American principle of equality of human rights?

Speaking at Congress in 1946[edit]

Speaking at Congress in 1946, in Deborah Gillan Straub, Voices of Multicultural America: Notable Speeches Delivered by African, Asian, Hispanic and Native Americans, 1790-1995 (1995).

  • The main point is that fair-employment practices should be adopted in this country. What with fair-employment practices? We love to talk about liberality and about saving the world. We sent our boys to Europe, to China, and to the Pacific. The only decoration which thousands of them received was a white cross surmounting a grave.
  • It is most regrettable that some persons think that it was all well and good to use such men and call upon them to make the supreme sacrifice in foreign fields, to land on a deadly beach at Okinawa or Guam or elsewhere, but that they are not good enough to receive equal treatment in our country.
  • Mr President, what about those promises? Were they supposed to be made but not to be kept
  • If the Constitution is worth anything, if the Declaration of Independence is worth anything, if the boys who died on the field of battle did not die in vain, fair-employment practices are correct and necessary
  • Is it fair Mr. President, to employ only those who happen to be of one racial extraction? I do not find anything in the Constitution which says that only those whose ancestors happened to be from the British Isles may be Americans. The Constitution says nothing at all like that. I have known some pretty good Americans who were not of British extraction, and when the country was in the midst of an emergency, when the shooting started, we found the Levines, the Gallaghers, the Negroes, the Assyrians, the Jews, and others doing their part in the war effort.
  • I do not know any Communists, but personally I am becoming tired of hearing men who are merely interested in human beings and in human rights accused of being Communists.
  • I have been fighting for the so-called underprivileged all my days, because I was one of them. I was reared in that atmosphere, and I am proud of the chance I had in America under the government of the United States, and I want my fellow beings to have the same chance I had.
  • Because I happen to have been rather fortunate, and when I go home I have a fairly good meal, or, at any rate, plenty to eat, it does not make me happy to reflect that possibly there are thousands and millions throughout the country who do not have anything to eat. Others may feel happy, others may be content when there are poor people in this country as a result of discrimination. I cannot be contented with such a condition. It is not American.
  • Hitler believed in discrimination. We know what happened. He carried it to its finality. He believed in a superior race. He believed in a superior people and the power of might and dictatorship. I believe in the law. I prefer due process of law to paying tribute to any individual in this country.

1948 speech[edit]

1948 speech in Deborah Gillan Straub, Voices of Multicultural America: Notable Speeches Delivered by African, Asian, Hispanic and Native Americans, 1790-1995 (1995).

  • Most speakers try to be as circumspect as possible when handling a subject as delicate as racial discrimination. But the world situation today is so critical, the fate of western civilization is so precarious, and the future of our nation as a great power is so imperiled that we find circumspection out of order; it is time to speak out boldly let the chips fall where they may. Discrimination endangers our country, and a threat to our national safety is a matter which vitally concerns us all, and it behooves us as good citizens to study and understand the problem. And if we find that racial discrimination presents such a threat to our safety, then we should immediately, with every ounce of resolution and determination at our command, seek to eradicate it from our way of life.
  • I am opposed to dividing them in times of peace into racial or religious groupings, as I am opposed to so dividing them in times of war.
  • The implications of discrimination, however, are not always so well known or understood. That an American citizen of Mexican descent in Arizona or Colorado may not occupy public office is a national disgrace.
  • I wish that the congressional opponents of FEPC could ask the helpless hulks of men in New Mexico, the prisoners who survived the death march and the salt mines of Japan, if it was wise-not right, mind you-to keep the man-power represented by thirteen million Negroes and some two million Mexican-Americans out of the defense plants because of color or race.
  • Imagine the feelings of the Japanese-American, who fought so valiantly in Italy-we had no better troops, not excepting the Marines-fighting for democracy and all the while his country was gathering up his father, mother, and sisters and herding them like cattle into concentration camps.
  • These things are wrong. I know that there are many among us who refer to the Italians as "Wops," to the Mexicans as "Greasers," to the Jews as "Yids," and the Irish as "Harps," but if we stop to consider how important it is that we be united now, we would forget our differences, forget that we are of Irish, Spanish, English, or Italian extraction and concentrate on being Americans.
  • And what about Latin America? We can't expect the nations of this hemisphere to break their necks to help us in the event of another war if we continue to mistreat their cousins in our own country.

External links[edit]

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