Van Jones, award recipients speak at 16th annual Mario Savio Memorial Lecture

Van Jones performs the annual Mario Savio speech in Pauley Ballroom Wednesday evening.
Andrew Kuo/Staff
Van Jones performs the annual Mario Savio speech in Pauley Ballroom Wednesday evening.

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Hundreds crowded into Pauley Ballroom for the annual Mario Savio Memorial Lecture Wednesday evening, given this year by Anthony “Van” Jones, who served on President Barack Obama’s Council on Environmental Quality.

Jones — who is currently a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank — discussed the need for a harder push for change in Obama’s second term, particularly in the realm of environmental and economic policy.

“This was a tremendous victory because we didn’t bow down and hand over the country to the worst people ever born,” Jones said in his speech. “But we cannot have four more years where you cannot talk about racism, about poverty, about peace, about the environment. Four years of silence from the left are over.”

The program also celebrated the two winners of the Mario Savio Young Activist Award — an annually awarded distinction that recognizes young persons for their commitment to human rights and proven record of activism.

The recipients of this year’s award are Howard Watts III, for his work on progressive issues in Nevada, and Molly Catchpole, for her work in petitioning against Bank of America and activism in the realm of student debt.

“Funding public education until 12th grade really isn’t sufficient anymore — we’re $1 trillion in student debt and counting,” Catchpole said in her acceptance speech. “Where we are now is an utter failure. I want to live in a nation where we take education as seriously as we do war.”

The lecture takes place annually to commemorate Mario Savio, the activist who served as spokesperson and symbol of UC Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement.

“Mario Savio was a true American hero,” Jones said. “The stand he took for free speech and peace is just as important today in the Internet age as we face challenges to freedom of expression and privacy … these issues are even more pressing now than they were in the 1960s.”

UC Berkeley public policy professor and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich delivered last year’s lecture on the steps of Sproul Plaza in front of thousands of students. His speech, in which he discussed the importance of activism and support for the Occupy movement, came to be seen as the apex of last year’s Occupy Cal movement.

“Forty-seven years ago, as you know, we were graced with the eloquence and the power of Mario Savio’s words from these steps,” he said in his speech. “And those words continue to live on — in fact, the sentiments and words that Mario Savio expressed 47 years ago are as relevant, if not more relevant, today than they were then.”

Sara Khan covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected].

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the speech took place Thursday evening. In fact, it was Wednesday evening.

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  • Justin

    To let student debt become as big an issue as war, or as big a priority as war is to decide that the war between society and thought is one society has something to gain in the surrendering of.

    There is a definite problem with living in the middle of an empire and the prospect of trying to think freely and solve the issues that a capitalist economy has brought to so many young people that are attempting to do just this. We as the community of people becoming informed enough to deal with the problems that we face today such as student debt are constantly battling the opposition in this case being the inevitable greed that has accompanied our economic system.

    The war between society (capitalist economy) and thought (the individual right mind) are always at odds in that one is trying in some way to come out ahead. If people began to decide that debt is not the best (though often the easiest) way to attain an education, we would see an immense problem start to go away. Do not for a second believe that the American government has your best interest as an individual or familial unit. They do not, but that my friends is democracy. It is our job to seek answers for the issues presented us, not the federal, state or local governments'; we are to use our rights in a way that is productive and not to stand by and watch and wait, this is not the responsibility inherent in a free county.

    It is fatalistic to say that we are not a free county, we are among the most free and with this comes risks, but it also brings the lime light, so stand up, take risks and fight. Fight for thought, and remember that society, no matter where you call home is going to fight what you say if it goes against the status quo, but those that revolutionize are the ones that get remembered.

    • Dan Spitzer

      Justin, with that ideological garbage you spew, NOBODY is going to remember YOU…

      • Justin

        this is more of a rhetorical statement, DAN

        • Tony M

          Well, your rhetoric is nonsensical crap. Sounds like you have taken way too many race/ethnic/gender grievance studies courses at Cal as you’re starting to actually believe that BS.

          • Justin

            grievance? hardly! however I do believe in what is commonly scarcely studied which has to so with a economic, political and sociological necessity known as balance or reciprocity. Yeah Jones’ speech was weak and it was about winning the election which is somewhat moot, whatever.

          • Tony M

            You’re babbling. Come back when you haven’t been hitting the bong and we’ll see if you can post a coherent line of thought here.

          • Justin

            nice retort

          • Guest

            @9873e2ce3332b06479a9b08883f9ac46:disqus you need to grow up

          • Tony M

            You’re spamming again.

          • Stan De San Diego

            Can someone please translate this gibberish for us? Oh wait, nevermind.

          • Guest

            @9873e2ce3332b06479a9b08883f9ac46:disqus stop attacking ethnic studies, you racist.

          • Tony M

            Sorry to have to smack you upside the head with the truth, but merely the fact that I object to college coursework that provides neither academic rigor nor marketable skills does NOT make me a “racist”. If you are indeed an offended ethnic studies major, you are merely proving my argument that such programs exist as indoctrination courses for students who can’t handle more academically demanding coursework.

  • Kronic de Sonoma County

    Perfect. A political thug spreading enlightenment to already skewed minds. Empty synergy.

  • Stan De San Diego

    > “This was a tremendous victory because we
    > didn’t bow down and hand over the country
    > to the worst people ever born,” Jones said
    > in his speech.

    Keep in mind that these are the same leftist Democrat party hacks who always accuse the Republicans of partisan politics. Liberal hypocrisy knows no limits.

  • I_h8_disqus

    “This was a tremendous victory because we didn’t bow down and hand over the country to the worst people ever born,” Wow! Hyperbole like that statement is the sign of a weak mind.

    • Tony M

      Liberals are out-of-control narcissists, and anyone who has ever had to deal with a narcissist know that the worst thing in the world to them is to be criticized. That is why liberals consider conservatives and other critics of their actions to be worst than murderers, terrorists or child rapists. If you dare disagree with them, you must be the epitome of all evil. There’s a good reason why more and more people consider liberalism to be a mental disorder…

      • Guest

        @9873e2ce3332b06479a9b08883f9ac46:disqus tony, you are such a hater.

        • Tony M

          Care to point out anything I said that was factually incorrect? Didn’t think so, but thanks for providing that excellent example of how the inherent narcissism of liberals prevents them from handing criticism in a positive manner.

          • Justin

            Its not fact, its all opinion, yours that is narrow and let me guess one of a pundit? probably not. You know what they say, haters gotta hate…

          • Tony M

            [Its not fact, its all opinion]

            Have you ever offered anything OTHER than opinion here, Justin? You have clearly demonstrated an inability to deal with facts on anything you post on this site, and what you do offer in the way of opinion yourself is barely readable. At least I can articulate my opinions in a clear, concise, straightforward manner, unlike the blatherings of a semi-coherent stoner that pass for the vast majority of your posts in the DC.

        • Stan De San Diego

          But Van Jones isn’t a hater when he makes comments such as the one above?

  • Dan Spitzer

    Van Jones was a less than worthy candidate to give the Mario Savio Memorial Lecture. About 20 years ago, Jones arrived in San Francisco and joined Media Alliance, then a vibrant organization of journalists on publication staffs along with free lancers. Media Alliance members then reflected a potpourri of political perspectives and the organization was anything but ideological.

    Then along came Jones and he manipulated and intimidated the organization until virtually all its officers were either members of minorities “of color” or gay. All officers reflected a far left perspective and those who differed with them were shouted down, with Jones leading the chorus. So much for this alleged champion of “free speech.”

    In response, Media Alliance members started dropping off in droves and the organization became a shell of what it once was, as ideology took the place of what had been for years an open and wide ranging forum.

    Of course, many years later after Jones joined the Obama Administration in an environmental capacity, he was found to have signed a petition which claimed the US gov’t was behind the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11. This revelation led the Obama Administration to pressure Jones to resign his post, which he did.

    As for the FSM, there are many fine and honorable members of the organization who truly stand, as Mario Savio did, for full freedom of expression. However, there are some prominent people who are hypocritical in the extreme in this realm. An important member of the FSM committee is Gar Smith, who has acknowledged giving his full support to those JVP members who shouted down Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu when he attempted to give a speech in Atlanta. And of course Bettina Apetheker, who long pledged allegiance to the Communist Party, USA, and was a member of that Stalinist anti-free speech group of ideologues until the Party was literally over.

    • Justin

      apparently, Dan or should I say Daniel you are against what you seem to retort against as ideological view points. Better to stick with what you know as concurrent realism? sad…

      • Tony M

        That wasn’t even coherent. Better give up hopes of being a pundit and work on your burger-flipping skills if you want to find gainful employment some day…

        • Dan Spitzer

          Tony, flipping burgers would be too taxing for Justin. After he flunks out, we will next see him babbling to himself from atop a tree in Peoples Park…

        • Guest

          @9873e2ce3332b06479a9b08883f9ac46:disqus @0e6c4f635059ea03e33c4a251d9eb085:disqus you two need to grow up.

          • Tony M

            Did you even read Justin’s comments? It wasn’t that I disagreed with him. My remarks were based on the fact that they didn’t even convey a cogent thought process, merely a bunch of words strung together randomly in a sentence. He was either stoned when he posted it, or he’s not college material. Sometimes you have to call it as you see it…

  • Cal Bear

    The photo caption says:

    Van Jones performs the annual Mario Savio speech in Pauley Ballroom Wednesday evening.

    The article says:

    Hundreds crowded into Pauley Ballroom for the annual Mario Savio Memorial Lecture Thursday evening, given this year by Anthony “Van” Jones, who served on President Barack Obama’s Council on
    Environmental Quality.

    Are The Daily Cal editors on Christmas break already?

  • Guest

    terrorist