Savio Memorial Lecture Celebrates Activism

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Supporters, friends, relatives and admirers of Mario Savio packed Pauley Ballroom in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union Tuesday night for the fourth annual Mario Savio Memorial Lecture.

Savio's voice reverberated throughout the auditorium as the lights were dimmed and the audience was shown a 1964 video clip of the famous activist speaking to a massive crowd gathered in front of Sproul Hall. Savio, one of the key figures in UC Berkeley's Free Speech Movement, spent his life fighting for human rights and social justice.

"He was able to speak from the heart and to the heart without manipulation, without deception, and without ego," said Lynne Hollander Savio, Mario Savio's widow and president of the event's board of directors.

The video featured Mario Savio in his youth and also shortly before his death from sudden cardiac arrest in November 1996.

"The most beautiful thing in the world is the freedom of speech," Mario Savio said in the video, with his white hair pulled back in a ponytail. "Freedom of speech represents the very dignity of what a human being is."

Two speakers, Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Hochschild, were invited to discuss "women, globalization and the new class structure." But before they took the stage, Lynne Hollander Savio presented the Young Activist Award to Jia Ching Chen.

A UC Berkeley graduate, Chen has been instrumental in organizing anti-World Trade Organization protests and has "consistently (been) there behind the scenes, bringing people together," Lynne Hollander Savio said.

Chen is an organizer of JustAct: Youth Action for Global Justice, a Ruckus Society trainer and founding member of the Third Eye Movement East Bay chapter.

"This generation has demonstrated its commitment to systemic change," Chen said. "We recognize that the negative impacts of globalization occur not only in so-called Third World countries, but in our own communities."

Hochschild, a UC Berkeley professor of sociology, and Ehrenreich, an author and freelance journalist, focused on the changes women are experiencing as a result of global economic restructuring.

"We are in the middle of a stalled revolution," Hochschild said. "It's a trade of a gender struggle for a class struggle."

She said she felt disturbed by the "privatization of the feminist vision" and hopes the dream of universal sisterhood among women has not been lost.

"We need solidarity across class lines," she said.

As part of her research for her upcoming book, "Nickle and Dimed," Ehrenreich worked as a maid and said she experienced first-hand class polarization among women. She told the audience about an experience she had in one home, scrubbing the kitchen floor on her hands and knees while the homeowner chatted on her cellular phone.

"The movement highlights these parts of human connections that cannot be commodified," Ehrenreich said. "(There is) a need to devise the utopian vision for our time, which draws on the vision of Mario Savio."

Audience member Hung Thai, a graduate student studying with Hochschild, praised the discussion.

"(Hochschild brings) abstract, vigorous ideas down to the commons so people can understand them," he said.

The event was coordinated with the help of the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, the UC Berkeley Library, the Graduate Minority Student Project and the Goldman School of Public Policy.


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