When Shirley Temple and Cesar Chavez bonded

cesar-chavez-foundation.jpgMarc Grossman, the longtime press secretary to United Farmworkers Union leader Cesar Chavez, recalls today that Shirley Temple Black got Chavez to deliver one of his most memorable speeches. It was in 1984, when Black was president of the Commonwealth Club of California. She invited Chavez to speak at one of the prestigious club's San Francisco luncheons. Grossman remembers in a statement that Chavez was hesitant because of Black's well-known role in the Republican Party.

So he asked me to follow up. I called the Commonwealth Club and received a phone call back from Mrs. Black. She said she was an admirer of Cesar and was enthusiastic about having him address the Commonwealth Club. So he accepted and spoke before a large crowd in the ballroom of a hotel in San Francisco’s Financial District on November 9, 1984. I worked with him on his remarks and accompanied him to the event.


Cesar and Mrs. Black had lunch together on the days before the speech and got along like old friends. They shared common interests in gardening and vegetarianism. Mrs. Black related how she had been a member of the Screen Actors Guild as a child actor and maintained her membership in the union over the years so as to support other young actors. Much later when she had to undergo breast cancer surgery, Mrs. Black was surprised to discover the costs were covered because of her SAG membership.

What has become known as Cesar’s Commonwealth Club address was one of the few occasions when he was very introspective, placing himself and his movement in an historical context. It has been widely quoted, from speech anthologies to director Diego Luna’s upcoming major motion picture, "Cesar Chavez," that releases in 100 markets across North America on March 28.

Grossman, currently the communications director for the Cesar Chavez Foundation, points to these links:

César Chávez: Commonwealth Address
In His Own Words: The Life and Work of César Chávez

Shirley Temple Black, at one time the most popular child star in the history of movies, died Monday in Northern California at age 85.


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