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November 10, 2008

Law School Professor Steven Bender Wins Oregon Book Award

The University of Oregon School of Law is pleased to announce that Professor Steven Bender has won the 2008 Oregon Book Award. Professor Bender’s book, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cesar Chavez, and the Dream of Dignity (Paradigm Publishers 2008), was among five nominees for the Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction.  This is the second year in a row that an Oregon Law professor has garnered top honors in this category. The award was presented by Literary Arts, an organization that supports and celebrates Oregon writers and publishers.
“It is an honor to contribute to the culture of a state that takes reading and the craft of writing so seriously,” Professor Bender remarked. “The law school has a tradition of avid writers and thinkers and I am proud to help carry that torch.”
One Night in America chronicles the warm, and unlikely, friendship between Robert Kennedy and Cesar Chavez and embraces their bold political vision for making the American dream a reality for all. Prior to winning the Oregon Book Award, One Night in America already was receiving high praises:

Bender frames his history of American Latino political participation within a study of the friendship of Robert Kennedy and Cesar Chavez, who first met during JFK’s presidential campaign. RKF oversaw outreach to Latinos, while Chavez headed the largest voter registration organization in California. Later, Chavez turned to rural union organizing of immigrant agricultural workers and called for help from RFK, who backed their 1966 strike. His backing of Chavez and the union, their shared belief in nonviolent activism, and their commitment to Catholic teachings on the poor created a bond between the son of Irish wealth and the Mexican farm worker. In turn, Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union worked to help RFK win the 1968 California primary from which Bender dates the decline of Chavez’s union. After RKF’s assassination, union political enthusiasm waned, and President Nixon sought to undermine the Farm Workers legally and economically. In the face of the anti-immigrant movement that began in 2006 and some anti-Hispanic vitriol from 2008 GOP candidates, Bender issues a plea for a revival of the RFK-Chavez concern for the dignity and well-being of the poor. He conveys both the fact and the emotion of the Latino dream for uplift, as shared by Chavez and RFK. 
—    Library Journal
The reverberations of a single night — June 4th, 1968 — continue to be felt in Mexican American politics. Insinuating an alternative, brighter path to that tragic history, one in which Bobby and Cesar cemented their friendship, a path where disillusionment gives way to enthusiasm, is the courageous purposes of this book. Viva Bender!
—    Ilan Stavans, author of Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language
During the November 9 award ceremony, Professor  Bender thanked his wife, Ana, and Oregon Law Dean Margie Paris for their patience and support. He also noted that the optimism shared by Kennedy and Chavez is still alive America today.
“Robert Kennedy and Cesar Chavez were both American optimists, and I’m sure they would find today’s political climate a place where optimists can still dream and thrive,” Bender noted. “I cried in sorrow several dozen times while writing the book about what could have been, and I cried in joy last Tuesday night for what America must become.”
Steven Bender is the James and Ilene Hershner Professor of Law and Director of Portland Programs. He is the coauthor of a casebook on real estate transactions, a national treatise on real estate financing, and a book on Latino stereotypes titled Greasers and Gringos: Latinos, Law, and the American Imagination (NYU Press 2003). He is an elected member of the American Law Institute and the American College of Real Estate Lawyers. He most recently was named co-president elect of the Society of American Law Teachers.


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