Speech Presented at Isang Bagsak – La Lucha Sigue

Balboa Park

September 6, 2015

By Vangie Meneses, Ed.D.

President, Council of Philippine American Organizations

Thank you to UniPro San Diego, the Cesar Chavez Commemoration Committee, House of Philippines, and House of Mexico for hosting today’s event.

I am a daughter of immigrant parents who came to America from the Philippines. We grew up in a farm labor community on an island in the San Joaquin Delta. The community was comprised of immigrant families from the Philippines, Japan, and Mexico. When we were old enough, my brother worked in the fields and I worked in a warehouse sorting baker potatoes, standing on a conveyor belt, picking out the biggest potatoes for potato chips. I did this for eight hours a day. It was that experience that drove me to seek an education and strive for a better life. Never in my imagination, did I think I would be here today, sharing the story of the Filipino farm worker experience. I am honored and humbled for this opportunity.

WHAT ARE WE REALLY CELEBRATING TODAY? Look around …. Here we are in beautiful Balboa Park, enjoying our wonderful San Diego weather, enjoying the performances, the food, and the camaraderie. So what does this celebration mean? Indulge me for a few moments and take a visual journey with me. Imagine …. Toiling in the hot, baking sun, doing the tedious, repetitive work of plucking a bunch of grapes from the vines, dropping it into a box, then dragging that box to the next vine, to the end of the row, to the next row. You do this back-breaking work for 10 grueling hours each day. There is no access to cold, clean drinking water, no restrooms, your working with unsafe tools, there is no shade to protect you from the incessant rays of the scorching sun.

The majority of your co-workers are Filipino in their 50’s and 60’s. They are mostly single men who have followed the California crops over the years. They came to America, the land of opportunity, as single young men, filled with hope and promise of making money and returning home. Only to find they were greeted with the harsh realities of discrimination, unforgiving working and living conditions, with no real support system, and never earning enough money. There were even anti-miscegenation laws that prevented them from marrying white women thus depriving them of a normal social and family life.

So you do this back-breaking work, in the hot Coachella Valley in the spring of 1965. You are being paid $1.25 per hour or $1.10 per box. You then find out that the “Braceros”, Mexican citizens who legally crossed the border to harvest the fields, were paid $1.40. You and your Filipino compatriots ask that you be paid 15 cents more, the same amount as the Braceros. The farmers refuse. So on May 3, 1965, you join a group of farmworkers led by Filipino leader Larry Itliong of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) AFL-CIO and you demand a raise and go on strike (Tangloa, 2014).

The strike lasts a week at approximately seven local vineyards in the Coachella Valley. That week long strike caused the farmers to lose a lot of money and was detrimental to the grape industry. Nearly 1,000 workers participated. As a result, they were able to achieve the raise they demanded, but there was no formal contract between the growers and the workers. A victory, but this was only the beginning of the struggle.

Larry Itliong came to the United States at the age of 15 in 1929 seeking opportunity. Because of the Great Depression, he was relegated to working on the railroads and as a migrant farmworker. He soon discovered the struggle Filipinos and other immigrants working the fields endured. He joined striking lettuce workers in Washington State and later would work in Alaskan canneries where he helped to organize a cannery and agricultural worker’s union. According to his son, Johnny, Larry Itliong was an excellent card player; avid smoker who spoke numerous Filipino dialects as well as Spanish, Cantonese, and Japanese. He also taught himself about the law by attending trials (Brown, 2012). He is finally receiving his due recognition in his role as a prominent leader in a major social justice movement.

Following their successful strike in Coachella Valley, AWOC traveled to the grape vineyards in Delano, California. As recounted by Asian American and Pacific Islands Heritage (National Park Service, n.d.), on September 8, 1965, AWOC held a meeting with the Filipino grape farm workers at the Filipino Community Hall in Delano. It was at this meeting that the farmworkers voted to go on strike and 1,500 Filipinos walked off the grape fields. The strike was lead by AWOC leaders Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz, Benjamin Gines, and Pete Velasco. The strikers demanded pay equal to the federal minimum wage of $1.25 an hour. For eight days the Filipino farm workers stood alone. They were evicted from their homes in the labor camps and they encountered violence from the growers’ hired strike breakers and the local sheriff’s department.

The growers began to bring in Mexican American farmworkers from the surrounding area to work the fields. AWOC leaders realized that they could not go it alone. It was at this time that they approached the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), an Hispanic farm workers union established in 1962 by Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and others to join the strike. Seeking an opportunity to join forces, NFWA expanded the strikers’ demand to include union contracts signed by the growers and laws allowing farm workers the right to unionize and engage in collective bargaining (National Park Service, n.d.).

It was Cesar Chavez who asked both the Mexican and Filipino strikers to take a pledge of non-violence and work together, share the picket lines, strike kitchens, and union halls. With the merging of the two groups they formed the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) in 1966 that eventually became the United Farmworkers Union (UFW) in 1972. The Delano Grape Strike quickly spread to other agricultural areas throughout California and the UFWOC began to boycott the State’s entire table grape industry. The strike eventually spread nationwide. After years of on-going strikes, boycotts, a 300-mile march to focus attention to the ongoing labor struggle, and a 25-day fast by Cesar Chavez, the UFWOC attained a collective bargaining agreement in 1972 with the California grape growers. The agreement raised wages, replaced a labor contracting system with union-run hiring halls, protected farmworkers from dangerous pesticides, provided funding for health care plans, created grievance procedures, and required that growers provide fresh water and toilets in the fields. These mandates affected over 70,000 farmworkers (National Park Service, n.d.).

The struggle for social justice, a decent living wage, safe working conditions continues to this day. So yes, we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Delano Grape Strike. It is part of our proud history, part of our precious legacy. However, it is also our continuing responsibility to honor the work and sacrifice of those who came before us. It is our responsibility to know our history, to understand our culture and values, and to continue to advocate for social justice, opportunity, and a quality of life.

It was when I was in college that I participated in the grape boycott and marched with Cesar Chavez in Delano in 1972. I am proud to share that I helped in the building of the Paolo Agbayani Village, the retirement home for the farmworker manongs. The manongs were so grateful and gracious. They enjoyed interacting with us and sharing their stories. In some ways, the college students who came to help build Agbayani Village were the children they never had. That same year, as students, we approached the California State University Sacramento administration to demand that a Pilipino American Experience course be taught at the university. We got it! When they asked who would teach it. We said we would and we did! All of these experiences helped shape my commitment to find ways to be at the table where decisions are made; to advocate on behalf of the voiceless; to ensure that opportunities are provided; and support is there to help them succeed. It taught me that when we work collectively with a shared vision, much can be achieved.

When we decided to go to Delano and join Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers, I didn’t know that what we were doing was going to be a part of history. We participated because we wanted our collective voices to be heard and our presence acknowledged — that we were in solidarity with the farmworkers. Today the struggle continues — immigration, farmworker rights, income and wealth inequality, voter rights, equity in opportunities, and social justice.

Until all in our community can participate fully and unequivocally in the promise of the American dream we are committed to our work in solidarity. On June 2015, Governor Brown approved October 25 as Larry Itliong Day – “It designates this date as having special significance in the public schools and educational institutions and would encourage those entities to observe that date by conducting exercises remembering the life of Larry Itliong and the contributions he made to our state” (AB-7 – Public Schools: Larry Itliong Day).

Let us not forget those who walked before us. Let us honor their memory, their stories, and their legacy.


Assembly Bill 7 (2015-2016) Regular Session Section 1 http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB7 Sept. 3, 2015

Brown, Patricia Leigh (2012, October 18) Forgotten hero of labor fight; his son’s lonely   quest. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/19us/larry-itliong-forgotten-filipino-labor-leader.hhtml?_r=0

National Park Service. (n.d.). Forty Acres Delano, California. Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage: Author. Retrieved from Asian_American_and_Pacific_Islander_Heritage/The-Forty-Acres.htm

Tanglao, Leezel. (2014, April 1 Updated: 2005, September 3). Coachella valley: Filipinos’ 1965 strike set state for farm labor cause. The Press Enterprise. Retrieved from http://www.pe.com/artilces/workers-688495-filipino-strike.html


The Demise of the Universities…….
Is Disruption Guru, Christensen, right when he says, “Fifteen years from now more than half of the universities will be in bankruptcy including state schools. In the end, I am excited to see that happen”.
Harvard Business professor, Clayton Christensen, who literally wrote the book on disruptive technologies, contends that in addition to online learning, there is a different business model that will have a major impact on higher education. He asserts that the new business model will be “on-the-job” education. Simply put, a student/practitioner can come in for a week and learn about strategy and then go develop a strategy in their work environment. They can come back and learn about product development, project management, or whatever will enhance their professional skills, all in an as-needed, short-term, and cost-effective basis.
What then happens to the traditional learning model of term courses (4-16 weeks)? What happens to the traditional course offerings that aren’t directly related to career/occupation preparation? What happens to the philosophical underpinnings of a liberal education and its transformational aspects? Remember the current academic learning model is based on an agrarian economy. We are now in the 21st century with little discernible change to that traditional learning model. How do traditional institutions transform themselves to meet the demands of a knowledge economy? Should they even bother? With the skyrocketing cost of tuition and students’ debt burdens, cost-efficient, learning enterprises will have significant appeal to those who seek higher education and training for quality employment. What will your college look like fifteen years from now?
Are your institutional leaders engaging in this discussion? What are your strategic priorities that will address this potential demand for a new learning business model? How will your institution manage the impact of disruptive technologies? Have you been paying attention? Are you ready?

Vangie Meneses, Ed.D.
February 2013


Leadership for today’s complexity requires a new adeptness and agility, as well as an approach that is systemic and transformative. There is a kind of leadership that comes from authority by virtue of the position one holds. Then there is leadership by virtue of the relationships and trust one has engendered over time.  First and foremost are the relationships that one establishes. Meaningful relationships are vital. It is the people who make up the institution, not the other way around. It is crucial to have open lines of communication, to acknowledge and respect everyone, to be as open and honest as possible, to be authentic and congruent with one’s words and in one’s behavior, to articulate clearly what the issues and priorities are, to collaborate, and seek feedback. When a decision is made, it is important that people understand as much as possible the process that was undertaken in coming to that determination. It is the relationships that one has with people that will help facilitate the process of dealing with crisis and unending change. Soliciting ideas, providing opportunities to give input, encouraging participation at all levels is critical to a viable, vital organization. Engendering an environment where most everyone has an emotional commitment to a shared endeavor is also important.  Empowering others contributes to the development of emotional commitment to the organization. It is also incumbent for the proactive leader to provide support and resources for people to be able to do their jobs effectively. That means removing barriers, understanding the needs, and creating an environment and a system of support in which good work can be accomplished.

Another critical component of leadership is being able to articulate a vision, a plan for implementation of that vision, and a means of accomplishing the objectives of that plan. The challenge of adhering to a vision in times of extreme budget constraints and a redefinition of how education is to be sustained is daunting. However, strategic thinking, collaboration, coordination, and communication are critical aspects of this endeavor.  The transformative leader is comfortable with ambiguity, tolerates risk, and possesses the ability to learn from failures. There also must be a commitment to innovation even during financially challenging times. To accomplish this, there must be support for a culture of creativity, new ideas, and process for capitalizing on new innovations to reach viable outcomes.

Another dimension that leaders should take into account is one’s proficiency in understanding what is happening in the world. The systems thinking mindset can be beneficial in that it recognizes patterns of behavior between parts of the system and the interrelationships between those parts, the ability to see things holistically, and understand the structures of systems and how the networks and relationships within the system is configured to achieve the system goals. The effective 21st century leader must develop prescient skills to identify and interpret emerging processes that have not yet fully formed, but will have direct impact on the sustainability, viability, and vibrancy of one’s institution. The effective leader understands that many of the traditional ways are no longer applicable and that new ways and factors are still emerging that are not clearly defined. There must be a level of comfort with incongruence. The effective leader is committed to life-long learning, and creating a learning organization that seeks answers and solutions in collaboration and consultation with others.









Systemic leadership approach

Beerel (2009) takes the view that the fundamental task of leadership is the management of change, thus  Systemic Leadership focuses on the process of change.  The main purpose of change is to integrate and align the organization to the constantly emerging new realities.  An organization adept at recognizing new realities is poised to initiate appropriate and timely strategic responses. Failure to recognize or misinterpret new realities is an indication of poor organizational leadership and will eventually have a negative impact on the organization’s future survival.

She posits that effective leaders recognize new realities when they are new. Since new realities are not readily identifiable and visible, they can only be discovered by being attentive to what is really happening in the present moment.  To be able to see what is really happening, effective leaders need to develop the ability to discern patterns and develop an understanding of systems thinking.  Systems thinking provides a mindset that helps one to recognize new realities and its implications as well as provides a way of seeing the big picture without losing sight of the details.  A systems thinking mindset interprets the world as interrelated systems that are in constant motion and change. This mindset recognizes the importance of patterns and relationships rather than individual units or events. A systems thinking mindset provides an understanding of the environment from a variety of perspectives and from multiple dimensions. Thus, problem solving is approached systemically.

An additional responsibility for systemic leaders is to be able to communicate the new realities to others while acknowledging the normal reactions of resistance to change.  Beerel advocates that effective leadership is about helping people and organizations to actively engage in dealing with new realities, irrespective of how challenging and daunting that may be.

Important aspects of Systemic Leadership:

  1. The focus is on tasks performed rather than focusing on particular individuals’ skills or characteristics, acknowledging that no one person has all the talents, skills, or traits required to deal with constant change.
  2. Leadership does not emanate only from positions of formal or informal authority, but exists throughout the organization. Systemic leadership refers to exercising leadership rather than specific identification of “the leader” or “the leadership”.
  3. Any individual within the organization can exercise leadership irrespective of their function, discipline, or level.
  4. The role of leader is different from the role of authority. Not all people in positions of authority instinctively practice leadership.
  5. Systemic leadership’s transformational aspect encompasses the view of taking care of others, motivating and empowering people.  Systemic leadership focuses on strengthening both the organization as a whole and its members’ ability to adapt.


Beerel identifies essential skills of the Systemic Leader as:

  1. Self-awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses – understanding one’s emotions and its impact on one’s behavior, awareness of one’s “shadow side”, any issues with authority, the desire to be respected and appreciated, acknowledging one’s fears and anxieties and how well it is managed. Self-awareness incorporates cognitive and emotional intelligence and ensures that self-reflection and internal work is constantly done so that one is more proficient in dealing with complex and stressful situations.
  2. Mindfulness is a proactive ability to be attentive to the present, to observe what is readily identifiable as well as what may be emerging.  Mindfulness requires being in the present and being attuned to what is happening in that moment. Mindfulness requires elements of patience, thoughtfulness, and openness to seeing the new and different.
  3. Systemic leadership requires the ability to see the big picture. Systems thinking allows one to comprehend new realities and their impact. This ability requires the capacity to move back and forth between seeing the big picture to focusing on detail.
  4. Courage is a critical component of any type of leadership. Courage allows one to be able to stand up to the challenge of others, to be able to maintain a sense of balance when one fails their projections and expectations, and when one is blamed for the discomfort of having to deal with the new realities.
  5. Understanding the group dynamic that is resistant to change – Knowing how to read and understand groups and engage in processes that facilitate moving the group forward is an important aspect of Systemic Leadership.



Engaging in discovery

Wheatley (1999) believes it is critical for the organization to look internally, to recognize resources within the institution, in essence to engage in its own discovery. To further her argument, she cites the new physics to explain that there is no objective reality out there waiting to reveal its secrets. There is no recipe or formulas, no checklists, or expert advice that describes “reality”. She believes that it is crucial for people to engage with each other, to discover what will work for them and support each other.

Wheatley focuses on a new vision of reality and how that reality is defined. For her establishing a common frame of reference, understanding change and context is critical as well as recognizing that the people in the organization are a critical part of the process. She challenges and provokes the reader to stretch one’s view of the world, to understand change as a constant dynamic, and to rethink old ways of thinking and doing.

Referring to the quantum world, Wheatley believes that relationship is the key determiner of everything – “Subatomic particles come into form and are observed only as they are in relationship to something else”.  These particles exist, yet they can only be recognized in relationship to another entity.

Wheatley’s new vision of reality and how reality is defined:

  1. Ability to reorganize – Citing Prigogine’s work, Wheatley explains that chemical systems reorganize themselves into greater order when changes occur. Open systems have the capacity to react to change and seemingly disorder by reorganizing itself to a higher level of organization. Thus, disorder is not something to be avoided, but plays a critical role in provoking a system to self-organize into new forms of existence.
  2. Understanding the dynamics of living systems – Learn to appreciate fluctuations, disorder, change
  3. Examine leadership for its relational aspects – Instead of robot-like individuals working in a mechanistic factory and motivated by external factors, Wheatley suggests that attention be shifted to intrinsic motivation that speaks to energy, the need for individuals to have a sense of being, community, meaning, and respect in their organizational lives.
  4. Critical to recognize the emotions and energy of human beings – Rather than segmenting ourselves into non-feeling entities, acknowledge that individuals are interrelated and connected. Organizational vitality is not something that is a solid object that one can grasp; it is an energy and ability for an institution to deal collectively with the dynamics impacting the organization whether it is internal or external.
  5. Engage in strategic thinking which calls for new skills – Instead of the ability to analyze and predict, one should know how to stay acutely aware of what’s happening now, become a better, faster learner from what just happened.  Agility and intelligence are required to respond to the incessant barrage of frequent, unplanned changes.
  6. Leaders need to learn how to facilitate process – Focus on establishing supporting relationships, that nurtures growth, development, creativity, and problem-solving instead of focusing solely on tasks.
  7. Focus away from individualistic behavior to creating a team – Through increased participation within the organization there are more observers to interpret data and information. Participation allows people to deal with uncertainties, provides opportunities to interpret data and information in a multitude of ways, thus allowing for the organization to develop a “wiser sense of what is going on and what needs to be done. As a result, organizations become more intelligent.
  8. Concept of power is redefined – Power is the energy that flows through the institution. This power cannot be controlled or directed to certain levels or functions. Power is engendered through the nature of the relationships and should be shared. If power is shared, it redefines the relationships within the institution and creates participative management and a self-managed team that in turn creates positive power shared by those within the organization.
  9. Leaders are needed to help in developing a clear identity especially in this world of chaos and confusion – Bosses are no longer needed. Instead leaders are needed to help people understand that the best work is accomplished through participation. Leaders are needed who can ultimately create a process to help us find meaning which is the most powerful force in an organization and in people’s personal lives.  In recognizing the human need for meaning, Wheatley believes that we can influence change anywhere. We just need to acknowledge this powerful process instead of denying that it exists.
  10. New meaning and descriptions for leaders – Gardener, stewards, servants, facilitator, conveners. Wheatley firmly believes that we are in the midst of a radical transition in developing a new worldview. With the current chaos and turmoil occurring in the world, the old ways of doing things is slowly disintegrating, yet the new ways have yet to emerge. There is no single expert or school of thought that has the answer, because what is needed is beyond isolated answers. Wheatley urges us to embark on the journey of discovery together.

Dealing with messy conditions

Fullan (2001) posits that leaders can focus on certain change themes that will allow them to lead effectively in “messy conditions”.  He identifies five themes as:  moral purpose; understanding change, developing relationships, knowledge building, and coherence making.

Five themes:

  1. Moral purpose – the intention of making a positive difference in the lives of employees, customers, and society as a whole.  Includes developed strategies for implementation and a support system for people to participate in a shared goal and purpose.
  2. Understand the change process – change cannot be managed, it can be understood, and led. It means the capacity to seek, critically assess, and selectively incorporate new ideas and practices.
  3. Relationships make the difference – businesses and organizations have souls and hearts. Everything exists only in relationship to everything else. If people within the organization feel genuinely connected, there will be a greater investment on the part of the individuals to the larger purpose of the organization.
  4. Knowledge building – Knowledge sharing and creation is still problematic even in in the age of technology with ready access to information. It is important for organizations to transfer and utilize knowledge effectively and efficiently that also includes a spiritual and emotional dimension. Sharing knowledge is about how people treat each other, encourage creativity, and develop internal commitment to achieving a shared goal.
  5. Coherence making – developing a new mind set for leading in a culture of change.  Fullan maintains that there are two concepts in complexity science that relate to coherence making which are self-organizing and strange attractorsSelf-organizing pertains to discerning new patterns of relationship and action when there is deliberate conditions and processes and the dynamics create a new state as a result of the new interactions and ideas.  Strange attractors are experiences or forces that attract the energies and commitment of employees. It is a series of group experiences that will facilitate a commitment of individuals to the organization and its goals, thus accomplishing a shared vision.


Educational Leadership and Change Part I

By Vangie Meneses, Ed.D.                                                                                                                                     MAAS Companies, Inc.

Wu wei is not abstaining from activity but abstaining from a certain kind of activity, activity that is out of harmony with the ongoing cosmic process. (Capra, 1982)

Is there a crisis in higher education? Are our colleges and universities inextricably bound to honoring academic tradition to their own detriment? What are the implications to the sustainability of these institutions with severe budget constraints, on-going demands for accountability, new educational competitors, demands for preparing students for the world of work, the global economy, and the rapid advance of technology?

Is the twenty-first century much more complex than previous decades? Are educational leaders paying attention to what is happening? With all the dramatic changes the world is undergoing and the demands put upon educational leadership during this challenging and complex time, how does one ensure they possess the mind-set, knowledge, capacity and skill to navigate their institutions through these turbulent times and ensure their institutions capabilities for the future?

The relationship between leaders and followers

For Rouche, Baker, and Rose, (1989), they believe that the most successful colleges are led by those who have the ability to change the values as well as the behaviors of the followers to focus the entire college toward a shared vision.  Rouche, et al. describe leadership as transformational leadership that is the ability to influence the values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of others by working with and through them to accomplish the institution’s mission and purpose.  It is critical for leaders to accept change and learn to work with it; have a solid grasp of change; relate specific change to a situation; and provide direction in the change process.

Transformational leaders’ skills and abilities include:

  1. Organize and integrate the skills of people with the components  of technology to attain the college’s defined mission and purpose
  2. Provide processes for followers to deal with the psychological implications of change since the natural tendency is to resist change
  3. Provide vision and direction to work through the change process
  4. Empower others to act and create collaborative situations that achieve success for all
  5. Value people as an individual and as a member of the team and acknowledge differences as strengths
  6. Create opportunities and processes for individuals to develop and utilize their creative and problem-solving skills
  7. Possess strong personal value system that includes openness, integrity, consistency, and commitment to student learning
  8. Articulate a vision for the future – what the college can become
  9. Risk-taking and a willingness to commit the institution in new directions while balancing the needs of the community