Posted at 10:40 AM ET, 05/18/2011

Cesar Chavez to be new name for Navy ship; congressman isn’t pleased

Cesar Chavez, leader of the National Farm Workers Association, speaks to the press in San Francisco on April 18, 1966. (AP)
Dozens of parks, streets, and schools around the U.S. are named for Cesar Chavez.

Now, the U.S. Navy plans to name a cargo ship after the late founder of the United Farm Workers, and a California Republican congressman isn’t too pleased.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, castigated the Navy Tuesday for paying too much attention to politics and not enough to tradition and past war heroes, according to CNN.

“If this decision were about recognizing the Hispanic community's contribution to our nation, many other names come to mind,” said Hunter, a former Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Only a week earlier, Hunter squabbled with the Navy over its decision that would have allowed chaplains to perform same sex-unions in states where gay marriage is legal. The Navy later rescinded that decision.

But the ship naming decision isn’t up to Hunter.

The U.S. Navy secretary chooses the ship’s name after getting recommendations from the Naval History and Heritage command and suggestions from service members, veterans and the public.

The secretary likely chose Chavez as the name of the latest Lewis and Clark-class Navy cargo ship because, like Lewis and Clark, Chavez was a pioneer in his field.

The labor leader and Navy veteran is credited with ending widespread discriminatory practices against the country's Hispanic population, especially in California, during the 1960s and ’70s, often using the slogan “Si, se puede,” which is Spanish for: “Yes, it can be done.”

Chavez gained national recognition when he mobilized thousands of migrant farmworkers, which led to union contracts and labor rights for field workers. The leader faced death threats throughout his life and was called a Communist.

About a year after Chavez died in 1993, President Bill Clinton honored him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Navy officials plan to make their plans public at the General Dynamics Nassco shipyards in San Diego Wednesday.

Watch Chavez talk about organizing, and the idea that employers were not powerful because they had strength, but because the workers were weak:

Watch a ‘lost interview’ with Cesar Chavez, in which he talks about protesters being shot and a crooked sheriff.

Some Spanish speakers tweeted their excitement about the news:

CHÂVEZ es REVOLUCIÔN ¡¡ Con CHÂVEZ todo sin CHÂVEZ nada ¡¡#PalanteComandanteless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Translation: “Chavez is REVOLUTION. With Chavez all, without Chavez nothing.”

By  |  10:40 AM ET, 05/18/2011

Read what others are saying

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company