Since March, this column has offered little news about the Cannon Beach Library so you might want to sit down before reading that the library is experimenting with lending books and DVDs safely during COVID-19.

Last Monday the library rolled out “Door-Side Pickup,” making it possible for patrons with current library cards to call the library on Mondays from noon to 4 p.m. to place desired items on hold  (limited to two books or DVDs and four children’s books). Patrons should leave a telephone number where they can be reached.

A library representative will confirm the availability of a desired item and schedule a time between noon and 4 p.m. on Wednesday when patrons can retrieve reserved items by the library’s side entrance.

Volunteers may recommend books, but the telephone line may be busy, so it’s best to use the library’s online catalog before calling. Borrowed material should be returned to the outside drop box.

The library’s website offers additional information about “Door Side Pickup” service.

The Northwest Authors Speaker Series is planning for virtual events beginning next month.

Limitations on number of people allowed to congregate at the library also affects meetings of Cannon Beach Reads, which hasn’t met since February. I see more Zoom meetings in the library’s future.

Meanwhile, I just finished Robert Cohen’s “Freedom’s Orator: Mario Savio and the Radical Legacy of the 1960s.” I found the title a bit misleading, though. The Mario Savio Cohen describes hardly fits the popular view of a radical now or fifty years ago.

Born on Dec. 8, 1943 into an Italian immigrant family while his father was in the Army during World War II, young Savio bonded with his fascist grandfather who ruled the household.

When his liberal father returned from the service, tension between Savio’s father and grandfather also may have led to the young Mario’s difficulty speaking without stuttering. His father’s insistence that everyone speak English also may have added pressure. Mario didn’t stutter in Italian.

Mario mostly overcame his speech difficulty by the time he graduated from Martin Van Buren High School in Queens as valedictorian with straight A’s—the best academic record in the school’s history—and as the recipient of one of 40 Westinghouse Science Talent awards nationwide that year—an accomplishment that assured Mario acceptance at any college or university in the country.

Savio’s father, however, refused to allow Mario to apply to Harvard, his first choice, because he had a scholarship from Manhattan College, a Catholic school close to home. So, Mario spent his first year at Manhattan College where he had spent a summer at a National Science Foundation Science-Math Institute while in high school.

Although the Christian Brothers operated Manhattan College, it was here that Savio began to rebel against both his devotion to Catholicism and the pressure of his science studies—taking courses in Greek history, philosophy and literature that distanced him from the Catholic tradition and physics.

He also transferred to tuition-free Queen’s College for his second year, where he engaged in his first protest in Albany against an effort to raise fees at Queen’s College. In summer of 1963, Mario joined the Mexican Volunteers at Queen’s College to help build a laundry facility in Taxco in Central Mexico.

While Mario spent the summer in Mexico, his family moved to Southern California, which led him to enroll as a physics major at the University of California, Berkeley, where he soon would find himself arrested in an anti-discrimination protest at the Sheraton Palace Hotel; spending Freedom Summer registering new voters and teaching their children in Mississippi in 1964 and becoming a leader, negotiator and spokesperson for the Free Speech Movement beginning in Sept., 1964.

Throughout the appeals, protests, sit-ins and meetings of UC’s ban of campus political speech, Savio became the leading figure in the Free Speech Movement because of his oratorical skill in mixing logic, satire, allusion, poetic language, sincerity and humility. Neither other activists nor liberal administrators at the University of California could match Savio’s oratorical skills.

Ultimately, after administrative stalling during negotiations, after Sproul Hall protests, sit-ins and a major police assault on and mass arrest of 800 students in Sproul Hall on Dec. 2, the Academic Senate on Dec. 8, 1964 endorsed the FSM’s major demand “that the content of speech or advocacy should not be restricted by the University.”  

This outcome was followed by various administrative efforts to limit the content of speech and threats of renewed sit-ins by FSM, but generally the Academic Senate’s endorsement stood. On April 26, 1965, Mario Savio announced his resignation from the Free Speech Movement.

Why did he give up his political authority and national celebrity? Savio and FSM leadership collectively decided FSM had achieved its original purpose of obtaining advocacy rights for students and thus should dissolve. On April 27, 1965, FSM was replaced by the Free Student Union.

The consequences of the Free Speech Movement’s victory went far beyond Berkeley. Colleges and universities revised student handbooks to acknowledge the First Amendment. Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas suggested in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District that teachers and students “do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

Mario Savio was denied readmission to UC-Berkeley in 1966, after which he worked part-time jobs bartending, clerking at a bookstore, and working in warehouses and factories. In 1978, at age 35, he entered San Francisco State where he completed his degree in physics in 1984 and master’s degree in physics in 1989.

Sonoma State University hired Savio in 1990 as a lecturer in the Intensive Learning Experience division to help underprepared students attain college academic skills. With his multidisciplinary background, he found additional interdisciplinary courses to teach in math, logic and courses he designed in “Discovery of Time” and “Science and Poetry.”

Before his death from cardiac arrest at age 53 on Nov. 6, 1996, Savio worked tirelessly in a successful battle against a $300 fee increase at Sonoma State University. The university president argued the increase would upgrade “Frisbee U” to “Public Ivy” status. Savio predicted a $300 increase would price his students out of Sonoma State.



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