Freedom's Orator Mario Savio and the Radical Legacy of the 1960s

Review :

I had never before heard of Mario Savio, let alone the impact of the Free Speech Movement, until very recently. This book was given to me as part of the freshman "On the Same Page" program at UC Berkeley, which merited the giving of a book to each student at orientation.


It is important to note that this book is composed of four parts: early life, free speech movement, the afterward, and a compilation of speeches/writings by the man himself (Savio).

The book is very informative and detailed regarding Savio's life, presenting a deep analysis into the formation of the free speech movement. This takes into account former politics, WWII, the Cold War, the racism of the 1950's, the Civil Rights movement of the early 1960s, as well as the personal history of Savio. Savio, though promoted to a celebrity status during the course of the movement, was a part of a militant yet democratic group of students who wanted to protect their first-amendment rights on campus. Savio's skill as a public speaker, surprising due to his childhood stutter, thrust him into the limelight as a leader of the movement. The book details Savio's personal struggles during and after the movement, the reluctance to be heralded as a leader or celebrity, and the moral convictions (and the reasons for them) that led Savio to be such a part of this movement.

Especially in part two, analysis of both his speeches, and pieces of his speeches, are prominent. Though these long passages of analysis may seem initially boring, the reading of the full texts of speeches (found in part 4) allows them to be incredibly useful, and helpful, in the understanding of Savio's motivation (both his own, and how it motivated others).

Though mostly heralded for his role in the FSM, I found part 3 of the book, which discusses his change/decline in political presence, and roles of later activism just as inspiring. Specifically, I appreciated Savio's 1990's activism. Explained in Part 3, with the corresponding texts in part 4, were very convincing and moral arguments regarding affirmative action, immigration, and public spending issues, which are just as relevant today as they were in 1995.

I am very glad that I read this book, and I highly recommend it to those interested in political activism, the 1960's, morality in the face of politics, or college-age students.


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