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Civil rights activist Dolores Huerta speaks in Santa Barbara

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Blake DeVine / KEYT
Dolores Huerta spoke to a sold out crowd about the need for action for civil rights in today's society.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Civil rights activist Dolores Huerta spoke at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort on Saturday and received a medal from a Santa Barbara university.

Huerta was invited to speak by Fielding Graduate University as part of its Winter Session. There, the university presented Huerta with its annual Medal for Social Transformation.

"I have always been inspired by her and feel incredibly honored to be able to see her in person now," said Santa Barbara resident Theresa Harris.

Huerta answered questions from a panel which included Marcos Vargas, from The Fund for Santa Barbara, as well as a Brown University Master's graduate from Santa Barbara County who is also the daughter of immigrant strawberry pickers.

The event was free and had 200 total seats which were all sold out.

Colorado resident, John Weiss, said, "She's done this for 50-60 years and she's never given up and she's an organizer and she's intelligent and she works for farmworkers."

In 1962, Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with Cesar Chavez.

The National Farm Workers Association, now called the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), is America's largest farmworkers union.

The UFW has sponsored laws in the past that protect the health and safety of workers and ensure they receive overtime pay in California.

Huerta is also an advocate for women in power.

"We will never have peace in the world until women take power," said Huerta.

"She basically went up against men, she went up against agro-business and she fought for what she believed was right for her people," Harris said.

Despite being 89-year-old, Huerta continues to advocate for issues that involve immigration, education and climate change.

Fielding Graduate University alumna, Steven Wallis, said, "Here she is ... sharing the message, sharing the word in a very nuanced way that helps people to resonate and inspires people."

"You can make a difference, but you have to speak up and you have to be ready to sacrifice," Huerta said.

For some in attendance, Huerta's presence evoked inspiration.

"When they see something like Dolores, they hear the message ... there's a connection and that connection brings people together and inspires them and we need that kind of inspiration to make the world a better place," said Wallis.

While there are tensions across the world, Huerta's latest goal is to get major corporations to pay their share of property taxes. 

For more information about Fielding Graduate University, you can visit their website at


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Jessica Brest

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