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Mario Savio Speakers’ Corner dedicated at SSU

Thursday, November 15th, 2012 | Posted by

The area commemorating free speech was dedicated at SSU Nov. 15. (courtesy of Jean Wasp)

The Mario Savio Speakers’ Corner was dedicated at noon Thursday, Nov. 15, at Sonoma State University. Several hundred students, faculty and campus activists gathered on the grass in front of the circular monument at Stevenson Quad, complete with three curved benches engraved with quotes by Savio, to commemorate the former leader of UC Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement of the 1960s.

Savio lived from 1942-1996 and was an SSU instructor in math, philosopy and humanities during the last six years of his life. He spoke out on a range of issues, from civil rights and immigrant rights to affirmative action and access to public higher education for low income, first generation students.

The ceremony, followed by a donor reception at the HUB Multicultural Center, honored Savio’s life and work with music, poetry and speeches by those  who were inspired by his activism.

Jason Avel DeLeon, an SSU senior philosophy major, first learned about Savio during a speech-writing assignment. A member of the student club, United by Struggles (which contributed $900 to the project), DeLeon worked with Cesar Cruz from the time they were sophomores to bring the commemorative site to fruition since the project began 16 years ago. He said the space seems like it was created “with love–something worth walking through every day.”

Mario Savio (courtesy of Jean Wasp)

DeLeon was moved by  Savio’s passion and conviction for social justice in the famous “Bodies Under the Gears” speech on civil disobedience, given at UCB in 1964, in which Savio states: “There’s a time when… you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels… that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

“How pleased he would be with the simplicity, beauty and tranquility of this space,” said Associate Vice President of Academic Programs Elaine Sundberg, who was “privileged to know Savio as a teacher, colleague and  friend.”

The memorial committee intends the space, set with colorful pavers and centered by a large stone engraved with a tribute to Savio, to be used by SSU and the greater community. People are invited to freely voice concerns and act on social justice or other issues of conscience. Student discussion groups, debates and educational instructional use are also welcome and encouraged.

Savio’s wife, Lynne Hollander Savio, spoke about his legacy and told the audience, “I hope you will use this free speech corner often, to advocate and organize with dignity and responsibility for the causes you believe in.”

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Nick Walden is our Rohnert Park + Cotati correspondent.
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