An Hour with Scholar, Activist and Theologian Cornel West

StoryNovember 20, 2001
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Last week human rights activists in the Bay Area gathered to present the Mario Savio awards to a leading youthactivist. Mario Savio was one of the leaders of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and a tireless human rightsactivist. The recipient of this year’s award was Jim Keating, the former St. John’s soccer coach who was fired forhis anti-sweatshop activism and went to Indonesia to live with Nike workers on starvation wages before starting hisown human rights group.

The speech Mario Savio gave in Berkeley in December 1964, before students launched an occupation of student buildingsto demand free speech, would ring as true today. Savio said “There is a time when the operation of the machinebecomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, andyou’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’vegot to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unlessyou’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

They’re words that might have been spoken by Cornell West, who gave the keynote address at the award ceremony. Todaywe’ll spend the hour listening to that speech.


  • Cornel West, professor of African-American studies and philosophy of religion at Harvard University andauthor of the best-selling book, ??Race Matters.



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