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Obama praises Cesar Chavez at dedication of home

A crowd watched President Obama speak at the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in Keene, Calif.

Larry Downing/Reuters

A crowd watched President Obama speak at the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in Keene, Calif.

KEENE, Calif. — President Obama designated the home of Latino labor leader Cesar Chavez as a national monument on Monday, calling Chavez a hero who brought hope to millions of poor, disenfranchised farm workers who otherwise might have remained ‘‘invisible’’ to much of the nation.

Obama’s declared 105 acres at the site near Bakersfield a national monument, the fourth monument he has designated under the Antiquities Act.

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The action could shore up support from some Hispanic and liberal voters for Obama, whose 2008 ‘‘yes we can’’ slogan borrowed from Chavez’s motto, ‘‘Si, se puede.’’

‘‘Today, we celebrate Cesar Chavez,’’ Obama said at a ceremony at La Paz, the California farmhouse where Chavez lived and worked for more than two decades. ‘‘Our world is a better place because Cesar Chavez decided to change it.’’

Chavez, who died in 1993 at age 66, is buried on the site where the monument was dedicated. His widow, Helen, still lives there.

The 187-acre site, known as Nuestra Senora Reina de la Paz (Our Lady Queen of Peace), or simply La Paz, was the union’s planning and coordination center starting in 1971. Chavez and many organizers lived, trained, and strategized there.

When the Arizona-born Chavez began working as an organizer after World War II, ‘‘no one seemed to care about the invisible farm workers who picked the nation’s food,’’ Obama said. ‘‘Cesar cared. And in his own peaceful, eloquent way he made other people care, too. Where there had once been despair, Cesar gave workers a reason to hope.’’

As head of the United Farm Workers of America, Chavez staged a massive grape boycott and countless field strikes, and forced growers to sign contracts providing better pay and working conditions to the predominantly Latino farm workers. He was credited with inspiring millions of other Latinos in their fight for more educational opportunities, better housing, and more political power.

Obama seemed to tie Chavez to his own reelection campaign, saying: ‘‘Even though we have a difficult road ahead, I know we can keep moving forward together. ‘‘ Obama’s 2012 campaign motto is ‘‘Forward.’’

Helen Chavez and son Paul Chavez were among those attending the ceremony. Dolores Huerta, cofounder with Chavez of the UFW, and current union president Arturo S. Rodriguez also were present, as were Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and other officials.

Later in the day, Obama raised political cash at events in San Francisco.

On the first day of his two-day swing in California, Obama displayed a little self-deprecation Sunday night to account for his showing in last Wednesday’s debate.

Taking to the Nokia Theatre stage in Los Angeles after some musical stars performed, Obama said the entertainers seemed to have flawless nights all the time. ‘‘I can’t always say the same,’’ he said. Everyone in the crowd of thousands seemed to get the joke.

Later in the evening, with actor George Clooney among those attending at $25,000-per-person fund-raising dinner, Obama reminded donors that Wednesday’s debate had fallen on his 20th wedding anniversary. ‘‘There was some speculation as to whether this had an impact on my performance,’’ he said to laughter.

Obama also used that occasion to say he still had his focus on the people he is hired to help as president.

After the California fund-raisers, Obama heads to Ohio on Tuesday and is expected to campaign in Florida later in the week. He will then hunker down over the weekend to preparation for the second debate against Romney on Oct. 16 in New York.

Romney, Obama get more ad help

President Obama and Mitt Romney are getting more advertising help for the final campaign push from outside groups.

A pro-Obama super political action committee released a television ad Monday accusing Romney of seeking to slash education funding and college financial aid. The Priorities USA Action spot says Romney would have to make the cuts in order to keep tax breaks for families making more than $250,000 a year.

The ad is to run in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Virginia, and Wisconsin as part of a $30 million campaign the super PAC launched this year.

The National Rifle Association is airing a new television ad in four battleground states urging voters to defeat Obama.

The gun-rights group is spending $1.3 million to air the ad in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. A spokesman said the group will be on the air with ads through election day November 6.

The NRA ad suggests Obama is ‘‘attacking our Second Amendment rights’’ and says a vote against the Democrat would help ‘‘defend freedom.’’ Obama hasn’t pushed gun control measures as president and has signed laws letting people carry concealed weapons in national parks and in checked bags on Amtrak trains.

The Obama campaign also ordered ads challenging Romney’s truthfulness as a way to counter the Republican’s strong debate performance Wednesday. The attack focuses financing for Big Bird, because Romney’s pledge to cut money for public broadcasting has received a lot of attention on social media sites.

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