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Mario Savio Memorial Lecture
December 4, 1998 - Friday

More than three decades after Mario Savio successfully spearheaded a struggle to open the University of California to the free flow of political ideas, Native American advocate and activist Winona LaDuke will honor the memory of the Free Speech Movement leader while exercising a right now commonplace on university campuses. LaDuke will be the featured speaker at the Second Annual Mario Savio Memorial Lecture, to be given at 8 pm on Friday, December 4, in Room 2050, Valley Life Sciences Building, University of California, Berkeley. Admission is free and open to all.

A winner of many national and international leadership and human rights awards for her work, LaDuke, organizer for Honor the Earth, founder of the Indigenous Women's Network, and the 1996 Green Party Vice-Presidential candidate, will talk on "Deconstructing the American  Paradigm: Indigenous thinking for a New Millenium." Time Magazine, which in 1994 selected LaDuke as one of America's most promising young leaders, describes her as "a riveting speaker" who, " in her quest to redress wrongs...doesn't mind ruffling a few feathers." LaDuke is the author of a forthcoming book on Native Environmentalism entitled All Our Relations , as well as the 1997 novel Last Standing Woman. [LaDuke information is here, photo is here and a Mother Jones article is here.]

The event will also feature the first presentation of the Mario Savio Young Activist Award, a $1000 prize to be given to a recipient thirty-five years old or younger who has "shown a deep commitment to human rights and social justice and a proven ability to transform this commitment into effective action." The award winner, whose name will be announced at the lecture, will also speak briefly.

Savio, who rose to prominence in 1964, when his eloquence catalyzed massive demonstrations for full freedom of speech and political expression at Berkeley, died of heart failure two years ago. Since his death, tributes to him have multiplied on the campus where he was once considered a troublemaker and denied readmission, despite an outstanding academic record. At the request of the Associated Students, the steps of Sproul Hall, site of many of Savio's speeches, were renamed the Mario Savio Steps, and a plaque was ceremoniously placed there last December. 

In April of this year, the University accepted a gift of $3.5 million from alumnus and former library employee Stephen Silberstein to honor Savio and the Free Speech Movement through support of  the University library. Silberstein's donation is funding a Mario Savio/Free Speech Movement Endowment to purchase books for the University Library, a Free Speech Movement Archives at the Bancroft Library, and a Free Speech Movement Cafe, dedicated to the memory of Mario Savio, for the Moffitt undergraduate library.

When he accepted Silberstein's donation, UC Chancellor Robert Berdahl noted that in 1964 "a student named Mario Savio removed his shoes and mounted the top of a police car to defend the right of free speech, and life has never been the same ever since on the Berkeley campus or any other major university in the United States... The Free Speech Movement had a significant role in placing the American university center stage in the free flow of political ideas, no matter how controversial. History affords us few crystalline moments, and what the campus experienced in the fall of 1964 was one of those moments. "

The Mario Savio Memorial Lecture and Young Activist Award are not officially connected with the University of California but have been organized by a committee of admirers, friends and relatives of the man who was once described as "the gentlest of warriors," despite his often fiery rhetoric. Moderator for the evening will be Prof. Bettina Aptheker of the Department of Women's Studies, University of California at Santa Cruz. Aptheker was a colleague of Savio's on the Free Speech Movement Steering Committee in 1964.

November 1998


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