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!
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!
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.