Joe Biden has a bust of Cesar Chavez behind his desk in the Oval Office

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Daniel Hernandez
·2 min read
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WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of executive orders at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office just hours after his inauguration on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden became the 46th president of the United States earlier today during the ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
On his first day as President, Joe Biden honors beloved Mexican American figure Cesar Chavez in the Oval Office. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images))

Here’s another sign of how different the vibe is in Washington tonight — a bust of a beloved Mexican American figure placed strategically close to the fresh work-from-home space of the new president.

President Biden’s transition team selected a bronze bust of iconic civil rights leader Cesar Chavez to place in the most visible position behind his Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, another sign of the tectonic shift occurring in the White House since the departure of Donald Trump.

The 22-inch sculpture is by artist Paul A. Suarez and had been on display at the Visitor Center of the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in Keene, Calif., in the Tehachapi mountains of Kern County. The Biden-Harris transition office requested the lending of the sculpture, the Chavez monument announced on Wednesday.

The bust is placed amid Biden family photos, and should be in view for tens of millions of people each time Biden addresses the country from the center of power in the U.S. executive branch.

Paul F. Chavez, middle son of the activist and president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation, praised the move in a statement.

“Placing a bust of my father in the Oval Office symbolizes the hopeful new day that is dawning for our nation,” he said. “That isn’t just because it honors my dad, but more importantly because it represents faith and empowerment for an entire people on whose behalf he fought and sacrificed.”

Cesar Chavez and co-organizer Dolores Huerta founded the United Farm Workers, originating the term “Si se puede” (“Yes we can”) and paving the way for labor organizing for generations to come. Chavez died in 1993.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.