PHOENIX — As President Joe Biden begins his term, an image of Latino icon and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez will greet him each time he enters the Oval Office.
The two-foot-tall bust of Chavez, an Arizona native who forever changed labor rights across the country, sits directly behind Biden’s desk.
It’s one of the few aesthetic changes the 46th president of the United States made to the room, but one that likely supports Biden’s pledge to the Latino community that helped thrust him into office.
Born in Yuma, Arizona, Chavez worked in manual labor in the 1950s and 60s when he noticed minority field workers being exploited as cheap labor under brutal conditions.
A grassroots push in California for fair compensation and improved work conditions turned into a nationwide civil rights movement that led to the formation of the United Farm Workers labor union whose rallying cry “Si Se Puede” has now become synonymous with calls for equality.
“Placing a bust of my father in the Oval Office symbolizes the hopeful new day that is dawning for our nation,” said Paul Chavez, Chavez’s son and president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation.
Biden is expected to push for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress with a gateway to citizenship for millions of undocumented people.
It’s an issue crucially important to the Mexican-American community championed by Chavez decades before.
Biden is also calling for more nationwide relief from the COVID-19 pandemic that has disproportionately affected Latinos.
Chavez’s own granddaughter Julie Chavez Rodriguez is now the director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs for the Biden Administration.
“I’m very excited and honored that it’s something he chose as a symbol in his office,” Chavez Rodriguez told NBC News. “It’s an honor and a real tribute to the community.”