Mario Savio, the heroic Italian-American working class leader of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement delivered this legendary speech on the steps of Sproul Plaza at the University of California, Berkeley, on December 2, 1964. This was the height of the Free Speech Movement, when young students - many in their late teens and early twenties - were protesting against the dehumanization and commodification of university students by the university's administration, the Board of Regents and local businesses putting pressure on the powers that be at the university to muzzle campus dissent.
Today, almost 47 years later, some things have changed for the better, thanks to the actions of brave souls who've found the courage to challenge the status quo. What hasn't changed, alas, is the horrible treatment of animals. These sentient beings are being commodified and turned into objects for our consumption. This snippet of a famous address given by Mario Savio nearly a half century ago is, therefore, as relevant today as it was when he gave it on that chilly day at the U.C. Berkeley Campus.
Today, those people - young and old, male and female, all colors and all walks of life - who are fighting for the rights of animals are fighting a very similar struggle as the students in the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. It is criminal to deny a sentient being of his or her dignity and right to have a good life. That's what students at U.C. Berkeley were saying 47 years ago, and that's what we vegans are saying today.
Vegans, therefore, are carrying on a humane tradition, the noblest tradition of all. They've taken the big step to change their lifestyle to a truly compassionate one in the face of often tremendous incentives and pressures to stay the course. The history books will look back on this time as a barbaric period in human history because of how ghastly the human race treats non-human animals. But the history books will also note the presence of a far-sighted group of individuals who possessed the vision, character and bravery to resist by seeing beyond things as they are and acting against tremendous odds to bring about a very different kind of world.
May these powerful words of Mario Savio help guide us to our destination.