ByHildaSolis Editor’s Note: Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis spoke at a reception in honor of Dolores Huerta who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama on May 29th.
US Dept. of Labor
Through tearful eyes, today, I proudly watched as the leader of our nation placed the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States of America, around the neck of my personal hero-Dolores Huerta. She joins the ranks of other luminaries throughout history, including César Chávez, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Teresa, who have received this much-deserved honor. As a young girl growing up in La Puente, California, I was mesmerized by images of Dolores Huerta. I remember seeing in the newspaper the iconic photo of her holding up the HUELGA sign; and on television, standing behind Robert F. Kennedy just seconds before he was assassinated.
I thought she was beautiful, with a mane of raven-colored hair, eyes that literally danced, and a soft, sweet voice that carried an extraordinary message whenever she spoke to crowds. But for me, her true beauty came from the inside. She lived an authentic life, in service to others. Her passion was and is justice. She has for more than half a century dedicated her life to helping the men and women who harvest America's fields. She has advocated for non-violent protest and has taught people that they have both the personal power and responsibility to work together to improve their lives.
I don't know if Dolores inspired me to become a public servant, but I do know that she inspired -- and insisted -- that I become a the best public servant I could be. We got to know each other in the early 1990s, when I was in the California State Legislature. Wherever there was injustice . . . Dolores was there. I remember one of our first meetings as if it were yesterday: I was serving in the State Senate and working with a group of female farm
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