The spirit of Mario Savio lorded over Sproul Hall on Tuesday night and the thousands of students and supporters gathered there felt a keen sense of history.
There were the obvious connections. As a student at UC Berkeley, Savio led the "Free Speech Movement" in the 1960s. To add, organizers of the Mario Savio Youth Activist Awards moved their previously scheduled ceremony to the steps of Sproul Hall in a show of support for Occupy Cal.
The evening started with a student reading of Mario Savio and the themes were eerily reminiscent of what we're hearing from students in the Occupy Cal movement today.
When Robert Reich, the scheduled keynote speaker for the awards, stepped onto the steps of Sproul Hall, he "connected the dots" between the movement then and now.
"We were graced with the eloquence and the power of Mario Savio's words from these steps," Reich said. "In fact, the sentiments and words that mario savio expressed 47-years-ago is as relevant or more relevant today as they were then."
Here are a few video excerpts from that night:
On the beginning of social movements:
I urge you to be patient with yourself because with regard to every social movement in the last half-century or more, it started with a sense of moral outrage. Things were wrong and the actual coalescence of that moral outrage into specific demands came later.
On notion that the U.S. can't afford education and social services anymore:
Some people say we cannot afford education any longer, we cannot as a nation provide social services to the poor... Well how can that be true if we are now richer than we have ever been before? Over the last three decades this economy has doubled in size but most Americans have not seen much gain.
On what the demise of public education and increase in income disparity means to democracy:
The problem with concentrated income and wealth... an education system that's no longer available to so many young people... The fundamental problem we are losing equal opportunity in America. We are losing the moral foundation stone on which this country and our democracy were founded.
On his childhood protector Michael Schwerner
Reich shares a personal story. Growing up short, Reich made alliances with bigger guys who protected him. One of them was Micky or Michael Schwerner, who was brutally murdered during Freedom Summer.
I sensed that something fundamental had to change not only in American society but also in me. And all of you right now understand intuituvely that if we allowed America to go in the direction it was going where the wealth and the income and the power and the political potential for curruption that all of that represents that the bullies would be in charge.