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The #New95 Reach The Home of the Free Speech Movement

October 31, 2017

This weekend’s 1517 Assembly went swimmingly for an event made up of a bunch of rabble-rousers and contrarians. Danielle Strachmann and Mike Gibson – collaborators on the 1517 Fund, and formerly the Thiel Fellowship (aka 20 Under 20) –  introduced the morning’s speakers as those “doing what they have no business doing.” These included the first female tech CEO in Afghanistan, and Stripe co-founder Patrick Collison (who started the multi-billion dollar payments processing company before the age of 20).

Balaji Srinivasan spoke on how to enable discussion of truly new ideas, which may be unpopular. Nowadays, everyone is a journalist and a public figure. If you want to speak “truth” to “power,” Balaji suggested separating one’s earning name from one’s speaking name. This can be done through his new company (soon to be He also advised extending your personal runway by living as a digital nomad – maximizing your savings, and minimizing your burn rate.

There was a common theme: the avant-garde eventually becomes the system. Sadie Valeri explains how this has been the norm in the fine art world for decades. Students learn to imitate Picasso’s abstract art, rather than the human figure, as the masters – including Picasso – did for centuries. “You’re not a revolutionary by copying revolutionaries,” she said, suggesting that those looking to take charge over their education should find a solid teacher who has the skills they want, and learn everything they can from them.

I wrote about the original event that inspired the Assembly – Luther’s publication of the Ninety-five theses on October 31, 1517 –  including my own spin on the #new95.

I was fortunate to meet a Berkeley econ student (my major at Cal) – David Zhou – who picked up a poster version of Mike’s new 95 to post on Berkeley’s campus. After a bit of dramatic staging, we taped it up to one of the bulletin boards outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union. Some of the lettering on the old building had fallen down, leaving only “Martin Luther” standing. Both Luther and King were great reformers in their own right. As Berkeley activists struggle to find a coherent voice for the civil rights issues of our day, they could do worse than to look at these men, and the much older tradition of protest that inspired them.

Update:  It looks like someone reposted the sign on Sproul in a better location. Good on whoever pushed this boundary.

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