In honor of Cesar Chavez Day, the MEChA Club invited Ken Seaton Msemaji, political director of Sheet Metal Workers Local 206, to speak about the civil rights activist.
For over 30 minutes, he spoke and commemorated the man who he says changed his life.
“I was fortunate enough to work with him, be trained by him, educated by him for almost a few decades,” Msemaji said.
Msemaji looked back fondly on the time that he spent with Chavez and mentioned that he learned a lot in the time spent with him.
He said he remembers Chavez as one of the most determined people he ever met. He described how Chavez only had an eighth grade education, how he always read books and how he had to educate himself about the world around him.
“After a while he was probably more educated than people with Ph.D.s,” Msemaji said.
He also described how resilient Chavez was and how he could take any situation and circumstance and turn it into a positive situation.
In terms of his personality Chavez was soft spoken and was not a “firebrand” and some have criticized him for that.
During Msemaji’s speech he spoke to students about what made Cesar Chavez such a
great person to be around: Chavez’s ability to look at others with compassion, how to make a difference and how to disagree without being disagreeable.
“He wanted to get the working poor organized in a way to empower themselves to improve their quality of life,” he added.
In what some have described as his most memorable line he said, “Don’t try to get even, instead of getting even just simply be a better person.“
When he is not at speaking at Palomar College, Msemaji is working with local businesses to try and get them to hire unionized workers. He said he believes in unions and in how they try to enhance the lives of their members.
Overall, the speech was received well by students in attendance based on their reactions.
“What I learned from Ken is that you need to learn to work with people instead of arguing with them,” said Ric Costellano, the president of MEChA at Palomar College.
Another audience member, MEChA’s Treasurer Adrian Alvarez said,” I think the point is not to give up. If you set your goals high then you will achieve them.”