Dolores Huerta on the Power to Change

In a conversation with Soledad O'Brien '88, Dolores Huerta discussed activism's past, present, and future. Photo by Tony RinaldoIn a conversation with Soledad O'Brien '88, Dolores Huerta discussed activism's past, present, and future. Photo by Tony Rinaldo
Harvard Magazine
May 31, 2019
By Jacob Sweet and Lydialyle Gibson

A few moments after a Radcliffe Day conversation between Soledad O’Brien ’88 and Dolores Huerta—the labor and civil-rights activist who co-founded the National Farmworkers Association (now the United Farm Workers)—seemed to have ended, Huerta stood up to make one more statement. “I have a request of you,” she said. “Alumni here, of Harvard, please address the [Harvard] president, say, ‘Sign that contract with your workers,’ okay?” (a reference to University negotiations with the Harvard Graduate Student Union). She then led the audience of several hundred in a chant:

Who’s got the power?
We’ve got the power!
What kind of power? 
People power!
¡Sí se puede!

In the conversation, O’Brien and Huerta, the 2019 Radcliffe Medal recipient, discussed Huerta’s behind-the-scenes coordination during the Delano grape strike (a five-year labor strike in California beginning in 1965), the process of learning how to negotiate union contracts, and the Internet’s role in activism. Huerta repeatedly emphasized that her goal throughout life, and through the Dolores Huerta Foundation, is to make people realize that they have power. “They may not speak English, they may not be citizens of the United States, they might be very, very poor,” she said. “But the one thing is—and I think something that all of us have to really understand—that the power is in our person.”

Read the full article at the Harvard Magazine website.

Search Year: 
2019