Text of a speech written for the UC Regents
meeting, July 20, 1995. Due to time restrictions, Savio was unable to deliver his speech.
tend to get out of touch. There is ample evidence that those on this body who favor the
Connerly-Wilson anti-civil rights resolution are now dangerously out of touch with reality
-- the reality of the campuses, the campuses which you are bound by law to protect from
All of the
associated students organizations, all of the faculty senates, all of the chancellors, the
university president and the president of the Alumni Association -- all, I repeat, all
segments of the community oppose passage of this anti-civil rights resolution. Ladies and
gentlemen: You need a reality check, and that's why we are here.
need enlightenment as to why people feel so deep a moral commitment to civil rights -- and
what, if anything, that has to do with affirmative action.
Rights Movement had two overlapping phases. In the first phase we finally checkmated the
citizens councils and the Klan. Remember, not long ago, there were still places in this
country where people of different races could not use the same toilet. We checkmated that
sort of barbarity in Mississippi in 1964. And, contrary to the Hollywood version commended
to us by Mr. Peter Wilson, it wasn't the FBI that did it.
second phase, the Civil Rights Movement turned to opening up opportunities in education
and employment. I was arrested for the first time during such an action, right here in San
Francisco at the Sheraton Palace Hotel. In those days, to see black people, if at all, it
was "in the back" -- washing dishes, scrubbing the floors, making the beds. We
compelled -- and I am proud to say we compelled the Hotel Employers Association to hire
black people in well-paying, visible jobs. That was "affirmative action" before
the name caught on.
action, as we know it today, is the institutionalization of that second phase of the Civil
Rights Movement. That is why I refer to this most imprudent measure before you as the
Connerly-Wilson anti-civil rights resolution.
did we demonstrators gain? I claim that we forged a facet of the social contract. You
Republican business types know a thing or two about contracts. Both sides get something,
and both sides are bound. Affirmative action is a contract for the gradual but steady and
enforceable eradication of racism and sexism from this society. You get
"gradual;" we get "steady and enforceable." And we all know that we
still have a long, long way to go before the work is done.
affirmative action is part of the social contract, it is also a social tripwire. Please do
not be lulled into complacency by the temporary quiescence of the Civil Rights Movement;
and do not underestimate the caliber of moral idealism of today's students as your
predecessors on this body foolishly and tragically underestimated the moral fiber of my
If you cross
the affirmative action tripwire -- you will trip. And if you trip, ladies and gentlemen,
you may fall. Remember, and do not forget, "Pride goeth before a fall."
Reprinted from The Daily Californian, 7/25/95.
Copyright © 1995 by Mario Savio, © 1998 by Lynne
Hollander. This work may not be reproduced in any medium which is sold, subject to access
fee, or supported by advertising or institutional subsidy, without explicit prior consent
by the copyright holder. Reproduced here by permission of Lynne Savio.