When Barack Obama campaigned to be the nation’s 44th president, he used the simple mantra, “Yes We Can” — a translation of civil rights leader Cesar Chavez’s chant, “Si se puede.”

Now, nearly four years after the presidential election, Obama’s paying homage to the man whose words helped him win office, decreeing Saturday, March 31st of 2012, the 85th anniversary of the civil rights icon’s birthday, Cesar Chavez Day.

The civil rights leader, who fought for fair wages and humane treatment for California’s farm workers, also championed principles of nonviolence through boycotts, fasts, and marches. In conjunction with Dolores Huerta, Chavez founded the United Farm Workers of America, an organization devoted to defending the rights of farmhands and field workers across the country.

Earlier this week, the White House honored ten local leaders who “exemplify Cesar Chavez’s core values,” inviting the activists, farmworkers, and professors to speak at a panel called “Champions of Change.” Read more here.

Cesar Chavez, civil rights leader and organizer of the United Farmworkers

Cesar Chavez, civil rights leader and organizer of the United Farm Workers of America