Photo Credit: Dr. Malcolm Byrd, American Bible Society In the photo from right to left: Dr. Paul Murray, Colonel John Church, President of Valley Forge Military Academy & College, Annie Brown, the Honorable Wilson Goode, Jr, former Mayor of Philadelphia, Dr. Fred Lester, Men’s Empowerment Network, Joe Cohn, Legislative Director, FIRE, and Steve Miska, Director, First Amendment Voice
Dr. Murray and I had the supreme honor of meeting with stakeholders in the Philadelphia area to discuss the FAV direction for the upcoming National Symposium in September. People in the meeting provided constructive input into the programming that would most resonate with respect to freedoms of religion, speech, press and civic challenges today. We are excited to invite you to join us on September 14th and 15th to celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day and help rekindle understanding around first amendment issues.
Following our Round Table discussion, I had the distinct honor of addressing the Corps of Cadets at Valley Forge Military Academy & College. I spoke about Character as it relates to First Amendment Freedoms. The cadets asked insightful questions and instigated a meaningful exchange around important issues that many in the crowd would soon swear an oath to defend. Serving something greater than yourself is one of the most meaningful ways to live out life, whether that service is through your faith, your service to country in uniform, through the Peace Corps, or some other way. There are many ways to serve, but like citizenship, service is not a spectator sport! You need to get in the game and enjoy the rewards.
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Yours in Service,
Steven M. Miska
Director, First Amendment Voice
First Amendment Voice awarded PEN America Grant to promote press freedom
Thanks to the support of PEN America, FAV will host Coffee Talks in local areas to discuss threats to First Amendment issues and empower citizens to learn and advocate for protection of their freedom. Coffee shop talks will help consumers be more critical and think about the reliability of their news sources by learning about different perspectives. Two Coffee Talks will be held in Southern California in the next month to raise awareness of press freedom. Dates, times, and locations to be announced.
Upcoming Events in 1A Space
The Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute invites you to attend our March webinar, Islam and America: Tips for Sharing Scholarship with the Public. We will discuss how scholars of Islam and American public life can engage different publics to raise the visibility of their work. We are pleased to host co-presenters Dalia Mogahed, Najeeba Syeed, and Asma Uddin. The webinar will include a presentation and extended Q&A. Sign up today!
Event Details: March 14, 2018: 12 – 1 p.m. EST
In the News
Discussion with those whom you disagree. The first paragraph gives you a sense for where this piece goes. I hope you take the time to read it.
Disagreement has made disagreeable individuals of us all. News channels are littered with platitudes masquerading as thoughtful discussions. Individuals, convinced that the volume of their speech corresponds to the correctness of their arguments, contribute to the cacophony of tirades. The print media publish headlines assassinating opponents’ characters rather than their ideas.
Free speech and toleration: A family exercising free speech stir controversy within their community.
Dear FAV Family,
For those of us blessed to participate in the 2nd Annual FAV “Own Your Liberty” National Symposium in Philadelphia, we truly experienced a special event. If you attended, thank you for joining us to celebrate an annual benchmark of the movement.
During the weekend, FAV thanked our sponsors from the Global Peace Foundation, the Charles Koch Institute, Veterans For American Ideals, the Douglas Leadership Institute, and the Nation’s Mosque. We are also grateful that all national advisory council members attended some portion of the Symposium. FAV began the weekend with a VIP reception and special tour of the National Constitution Center. We then hosted the Symposium the following day with speakers, students, delegates, and attendees from states across our union. Events featured luminaries like Dr. Harold Dean Trulear of Howard University, Dr. Wilson Goode, former Mayor of Philadelphia, Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez of Churches in Action of Los Angeles, Senator Stuart Adams of the Utah State Senate, Judge Nelson Diaz, and many others.
The morning plenary session featured Joe Cohn of Philadelphia’s own Foundation on Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Saeed Khan from Wayne State University, and Chelsea Langston-Bombino from the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance (IRFA). Our lunchtime breakout training featured the Alliance for an Indivisible America 2020 and focused grassroots advocacy training on network building and media engagement.
Our final sessions in the afternoon featured James Flynn, President of Global Peace Foundation, discussing “Balancing Competing Interest in a Polarized Society,” followed by a Town Hall forum moderated by Dr. Paul Murray. Audience interaction distinguished the day with many questions about free speech, religious freedom and other topics. Alan Inman closed the day by thanking attendees and sponsors and inspiring people to get involved at the community level.
FAV also announced a paid membership program. $25 gets members access to exclusive content on the FAV website and invitations to exclusive events like the VIP Reception before the annual symposium and delegate training. We hope you consider joining us to support the cause of reinvigorating civic dialogue and understanding around our first amendment liberty. By doing that you can truly #OwnYourLiberty!
On Patriot’s Day, it is always appropriate to take a moment and reflect on the sacrifice of those killed in the deadly attacks and those who continue to guard the frontlines of freedom, whether in the armed services, law enforcement, from the pulpit, or in our community organizations. September 11th, 2001 has been etched in the memories of mankind for sixteen years now. Everyone of age can remember exactly what they were doing when they found out about the attacks; most joined a stunned world to watch as media broadcast the strikes repeatedly on international news. While in class at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, I joined fellow officers to watch the footage from the first strike at 8:46 a.m. with smoke still billowing from the north tower. Sixteen minutes later the second plane hit the south tower on live television. 35 minutes later a third plane struck the Pentagon. At 9:59 a.m. Eastern Standard Time the southern tower collapsed after burning for 56 minutes. The north tower came down shortly thereafter. At 10:03 a.m. the fourth plane went down due to the heroic efforts of passengers who decided to fight back. It did not take some Americans long to realize there was a war going on. The instincts of the passengers of United Airlines flight 93 probably saved the lives of hundreds of people. The attacks were symbolically chosen to strike at the heart of U.S. economic power (the World Trade Center), military might (the Pentagon), and political center (many analysts predict that Flight 93’s target was either the White House or Capitol Building). The attacks were meant to inspire fear.
So sixteen years later our nation finds itself still engaged in fighting Al Qaeda. We, as citizens, stand together today on the frontiers of freedom. Some of us are tired and bear the scars of battle, both inside and out. But we dare not falter. The intrepid spirit that spawned a nation of free loving people must continue to stoke the fires of passion. Complacency is our greatest threat. Many Americans have grown tired. They bear the psychological scars of emotional loss, unspeakable atrocities and brutal existence. Some have no hope. Let us not enter those ranks!
Regardless of where we find ourselves, conscientious citizens will serve to the utmost of their ability, committed to making a difference for their fellow human beings or defeating evil. As John Stuart Mill reminds us, “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” Although this is probably one of Mill’s most repeated quotes in military circles, I will leave you with my favorite. “One person with belief is worth 99 of those with only an interest.” The world is changed by small groups of committed, passionate individuals. Don’t let opportunities pass you by. You can make a difference.
Guest Author : Scott Cooper, Vets for American Ideals
In today’s increasingly polarized society, it often feels that civil discourse is a thing of the past. We don’t talk to each other; we yell at and over one another. It has only served to further divide us, and has helped opened the door to fear of the other, and to disinterest in, or downright hatred of, our fellow human beings.
In one of the more severe manifestations of that, last month white supremacists, neo-Nazis, KKK members, and segregationists marched with torches, body armor, shields and swastikas in Charlottesville. It made my stomach turn. Those were not patriots. They are repugnant and violate every principle I fought for in the Marine Corps and since I took off the uniform.
It also steeled me. Charlottesville — and the rising hatred and division in our country today — is a clarion call to action to continue the tireless work of citizenship. I searched for words that would comfort and inspire, and I was drawn to the speech Secretary of Defense James Mattis delivered at West Point back in May. He addressed the graduates with a simple theme: Hold the Line.
You Hold the Line: true to honor, living by a moral code regardless of who is watching, knowing that honor is what we give ourselves for a life of meaning…
So fight—So fight for our ideals and our sacred things; incite in others respect and love for our country and our fellow Americans; and leave this country greater and more beautiful than you inherited it, for that is the duty of every generation.
We have a responsibility, as citizens, to engage with our fellow Americans and remind them who we are. That we cherish the Constitution of the United States and the rights it guarantees. That we insist that our leaders govern within the limits of the law. That they demonstrate integrity and honor and work for the common good. That we judge women and men by what they do, not who they are, the color of their skin, their faith, the place they were born, or who they love.
It is with these thoughts in mind that I should note how much I’m looking forward to attending the second annual First Amendment Voice Own Your Liberty National Symposium. They invigorate me – a group of citizens committed to civil engagement and solving problems facing our communities.
This, I believe, is what our founding fathers were searching for when they wrote the first amendment. That within the United States, there is room enough for all peoples. Everyone may express themselves fully, come together, or disagree with each other and their government, and we will still be one nation, brought together by a set of values and ideals, chief among them the freedom to express oneself, to assemble, and to worship.
Those who marched with torches in Charlottesville go against everything that the United States for, and the freedoms and values it represents. We owe them nothing. But, especially as military veterans who have sworn to uphold the Constitution, we do owe it to the rest of our fellow citizens to ensure they can fully exercise their freedoms. To do that, we must have those civil, and sometimes difficult, conversations. We must exercise our own voices and come together. We must reach across the aisle and find ways to work together toward the common good, and toward the more perfect realization of our nation’s most cherished ideals.
I hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July and enjoyed meaningful time with friends and family. This holiday weekend was a time to celebrate the birth of our nation, and more importantly the ideals that helped give birth to our nation. Those founding principles should guide conduct in our daily lives and have tremendous relevancy today. Whether you were camping with friends, at a backyard BBQ or watching fireworks light up the night sky, it was a very special moment – a moment to remember those brave souls who sacrificed all so that we could enjoy our freedom. Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died. As you pause to reflect, I hope you and your loved ones are invigorated with the liberty we must protect and promote.
Mark your calendars! September 15th and 16th in Philadelphia.
Sponsors – would you like to sponsor students to attend the National Symposium in Philadelphia? Let us know. Student registration is only $25. Delegate registration is $79 and all others are $99 before August 15th. After that prices go up.
Spotlight on Partners
Veterans For American Ideals is an initiative that encourages veteran voices to join public policy discussions in a nonpartisan way. See this opportunity to learn more below. You do not need to be a veteran to participate in the webinar.
Countering Hate Speech Webinar
Tuesday, July 11th, 12:00pm ET / 9:00am PT
RSVP here to receive webinar log-in details
This one-hour webinar will provide you with a set of insights about some of the social, psychological, and neurological factors that make it so hard to push back divisive and hateful rhetoric. It will give you tips on how, in the face of some of these challenges, you can deliver messaging to most effectively push back on this negative speech and rhetoric and promote peace and inclusion. After an initial talk by Rachel Brown, author of Defusing Hate: A Strategic Communication Guide to Counteract Dangerous Speech, we will open up for Questions and Answer.
Please forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues you think would appreciate FAV’s work, and of course, enjoy your Fourth of July holiday with family! Subscribe here.
Steven M. Miska
On June 8th, FAV hosted grassroots training that focused on how to engage and recruit others on the issues surrounding the 1st Amendment. Delegates attended an all day training event which included lunch and a special guest appearance by the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Karl Racine – all with a breathtaking view of the Capitol building.
We would like to convey a special “Thank You” to our partners at the Global Peace Foundation, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, Veterans For American Ideals, The Nation’s Mosque, the ADAMS Center, and Human Rights First for their support and commitment to educating others about first amendment freedoms. Also, thank you to partner organizations Heritage Foundation and FIRE each of whom sent a guest speaker. Every agencies’ contributions were extremely meaningful to the training.
Lastly, thank you to all the delegates who participated in the training to learn about freedom of speech on college campuses, religious liberty and member engagement using the ‘Coffee Talk’ model. We would love to spotlight your efforts and hope to hear from you about success stories on starting your own FAV – Coffee Talk programs.
Director, First Amendment Voice
PHOTOS FROM THE TRAINING