b. December 8, 1942 - d. November 6, 1996
Mario Savio, a man of brilliance, compassion, and humor, came to public notice as a spokesman for the Free Speech Movement at the University of California in 1964. Having spent the summer as a civil rights worker in segregationist Mississippi, Savio returned to Berkeley at a time when students throughout the country were beginning to mobilize in support of racial justice and against the deepening American involvement in Vietnam.
His moral clarity, his eloquence, and his democratic style of leadership inspired thousands of fellow Berkeley students to protest university regulations which severely limited political speech and activity on campus. The non-violent campaign culminated in the largest mass arrest in American history, drew widespread faculty support, and resulted in a revision of university rules to permit political speech and organizing. This significant advance for student freedom rapidly spread to countless other colleges and universities across the country.
Savio went on to become a teacher of mathematics, physics and philosophy at Sonoma State University, to speak and organize in favor of immigrant rights and affirmative action and against U.S.intervention in Central America.
Mario Savio died on November 6, 1996, in the middle of a struggle against university fee hikes that hurt working-class students.
He never lost his love of poetry and debate, his willingness to admit his own doubts and to listen to another's point of view, or his deep belief that this kind of dialogue was essential to building a more just world whose fruits would be shared by all.
On Free Speech: To me, freedom of speech is something that represents the very dignity of what a human being is. That's what marks us off from the stones and the stars. You can speak freely. It is really the thing that marks us as just below the angels. (1994)
On Freedom and Resistance:"There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even passively take part; and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop, And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, the people who own it, that unless you're free the machine will be prevented from working at all." (1964)
On the Struggle for Justice: "We have to be prepared on the basis of our moral insight to struggle even if we do not know that we are going to win. [It's a weakness] to underestimate the importance of spiritual values. By spiritual values, I mean we as a community can feel something deeper than we are: not that we as a community feel God is on our side but some sense of looking down into the heart of things and being able to perceive which way is just, which way is not just. And that's what we have to convey to people. Not everyone for himself, but all of us for the community. (1994)
On Strength through Unity: The civil rights movement just burst on the United States right on the tube [TV]. We saw images of young people being attacked by dogs, by powerful water-cannons. And they faced their fears, they overcame their fear by holding one another. That was a lesson that what we need, the strength that we need, we can find in one another. It was, of course, an image of great courage, and I have not had to face the kinds of things that those people had to face. But if they were willing to face that, then I felt by that very thing both shamed and inspired to do what I could do. And to take the lesson of holding one another as a way it could be done. (1995)