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Mario Savio's speech before the FSM sit-in

Editorial note: This is the conclusion of Mario Savio's memorable speech, before Free Speech Movement demonstrators entered Sproul Hall to begin their sit-in on December 3, 1964. His climactic words about "the operation of the machine" have been quoted widely ever since, out of context, as the existential emblem of the FSM. (Or mis-quoted, since he said "passively" rather than "tacitly.") The beginning of Savio's talk -- about the technical details of the failed negotiations and the administration's reprisal --has never been transcribed. We hope to make it available soon, for it provides a fuller view of the balance of thought and feeling in his speech, and in the FSM.

     We have an autocracy which runs this university. It's managed. We asked the following: if President Kerr actually tried to get something more liberal out of the Regents in his telephone conversation, why didn't he make some public statement to that effect? And the answer we received -- from a well-meaning liberal -- was the following: He said, "Would you ever imagine the manager of a firm making a statement publicly in opposition to his board of directors?" That's the answer! Now, I ask you to consider: if this is a firm, and if the Board of Regents are the board of directors, and if President Kerr in fact is the manager, then I'll tell you something: the faculty are a bunch of employees, and we're the raw material! But we're a bunch of raw material[s] that don't mean to have any process upon us, don't mean to be made into any product, don't mean to end up being bought by some clients of the University, be they the government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone! We're human beings!

     [Wild applause.]

     There is 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 the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

     [Prolonged applause.]

     Now, no more talking. We're going to march in singing "We Shall Overcome." Slowly; there are a lot of us. Up here to the left -- I didn't mean the pun.


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