May 2018 Newsletter

May 2018 Newsletter

FAV Family,

See Upcoming Events BELOW for more details

While lining up a coffee talk in partnership with PEN America to discuss Press Freedom and news consumption, I reached out to numerous organizations.

One individual called me back, and we had a long conversation about FAV, press freedom and the type of discussion we generally have with respect to first amendment issues and trends in how people consume news. Her organization was affiliated with a political party. After we scheduled a session for me to come speak, she asked if my wife planned to attend and whether she was a member of the party. I responded that my wife and I are not registered in any political party and remain nonpartisan in our political activity. This caused quite the reaction.

The woman cited a rule that only registered members of her party were allowed to speak to the organization. “I don’t make the rules; I’m just letting you know what they are.” I responded that as a 25-year veteran, having served 40 months in combat, maybe I had something to offer the group, regardless of political affiliation.

Her response, “I don’t make the rules; I’m just letting you know what they are.”

Maybe this is a new norm? Are people so insulated in their bubbles that they are afraid to hear what others might say? Planning for Philadelphia this September, we plan to tackle this issue head on. We recently secured a wonderful speaker, Kern Beare, who routinely hosts “Difficult Conversations” workshops; how to bridge divides and engage with those with whom we disagree. Learn more about Kern’s story

I hope you will consider joining us. We think you will find the experience meaningful.

Please forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues you think would appreciate FAV’s work. Subscribe here.

Yours in service,

Steve Miska and the FAV Team


Citizen’s Call to Action

It’s primary season in many states around the republic. Don’t forget to register and vote! Citizenship is not a spectator sport! #OwnYourLiberty


In the News

An article from the New York Times highlights the battlegrounds for free expression and technology. Read an excerpt:

BERLIN — Security is tight at this brick building on the western edge of Berlin. Inside, a sign warns: “Everybody without a badge is a potential spy!”
Spread over five floors, hundreds of men and women sit in rows of six scanning their computer screens. All have signed nondisclosure agreements. Four trauma specialists are at their disposal seven days a week.
They are the agents of Facebook. And they have the power to decide what is free speech and what is hate speech…
Richard Allan, Facebook’s vice president for public policy in Europe and the leader of the company’s lobbying effort against the German legislation, put it more simply: “We don’t want to be the arbiters of free speech.”  >>continue reading

UPCOMING EVENTS:

First Amendment Voice Third Annual Symposium

Join us at our national convening in the City of Philadelphia,founded by William Penn as a place of religious tolerance, as we join people of faith and conscience to celebrate our Constitutional ideals; honor the annual Constitution/Citizenship Day; and address the erosion of our First Amendment Rights.

  • Date: September 14-15, 2018
  • Location: National Constitution Center (525 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106)

Symposium Flyer 2018 – Save the Date

April 2018 Newsletter

April 2018 Newsletter

FAV Family,

We have seen a massive uprising amongst students concerned about gun violence in schools and the fact that political leaders have not been able to develop effective solutions. As a result, students have activated and begun exercising their First Amendment rights with respect to freedom of assembly, petitioning the government for grievance, and ensuring that their voices are part of the national conversation. Some of these young leaders have been demonized in certain parts of the media and derisively attacked on social media. Regardless of your perspective on how to address gun violence in the United States, I would ask that you encourage young voices to join the conversation in civil ways. The country benefits when youth become involved in citizenship. By seeking understanding first, we can set a tone for constructive discussion about important issues in our society.

Please forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues you think would appreciate FAV’s work. Subscribe here.

Yours in service and civility,

The FAV Team


Critical Thinking Tip: Before reading a book/article/blog, know the author. Don’t waste your time reading until you understand the author’s background and history, essentially what biases they bring to their writing. THEN, read the book/article/blog and take into account the expected biases. Seek out alternative viewpoints, writers/speakers who you know DISAGREE with the author/speaker. In that way you can carefully consider different perspectives about the topic and form a more comprehensive opinion. SMILE. If you’re not getting shot at, it’s not that bad! We live in an amazing society. Only through striving to actively contribute to that society can we endeavor toward its aspirational ideals.


In the News

In the world of social media, firms collect an amazing amount of personal data about their users. Read this Buzzfeed article to learn more about how much information Facebook and other firms collect and how they use that data. You probably don’t have as much privacy as you think.

Countering campus bigotry. This article involves a student calling out a professor for alienating comments.


UPCOMING EVENTS:

FAV Coffee Talks – The Media sponsored by PEN America

Open to all: REGISTER NOW

Free breakfast for the first 20 registrants

Hosted by Saint Andrews By The Sea United Methodist Church in San Clemente, CA on April 21, 2018 from 8 – 9:30am PST

Other Stakeholders

Pop The Bubble Workshop, Kern Beare

Redding, CA on May 1, 2018

LEARN MORE

March Newsletter

March Newsletter

FAV Family,

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.

Please forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues you think would appreciate FAV’s work. Subscribe here.

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 MogahedNajeeba 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. 

July Newsletter

July Newsletter

FAV Family,

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.
 
Upcoming Events
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.
 
Delegate Actions
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.
 
#OwnYourLiberty
Steve 

 
Steven M. Miska

 

Delegate Grassroot Training – June 8, 2017

Delegate Grassroot Training – June 8, 2017

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.

#OwnYourLiberty,
Steve
Director, First Amendment Voice

 

PHOTOS FROM THE TRAINING

 

Memorial Day Reflection

Memorial Day Reflection

FAV Family,

Reflecting on Memorial Day, I can’t help but think back to those holidays celebrated in wartime. I want to share some of the themes we discussed when we paused from combat operations to remember our fallen and to reinvigorate the ranks to continue the mission. During the typical Memorial Day Ceremony, we would have a military chaplain provide the spiritual context for the event, offering a prayer. We would have special music and conduct a ceremonial remembrance of the fallen.

In Baghdad, on Memorial Day in 2007, we rang a bell 64 times and read the names of the fallen, both American and Iraqi. I would speak about the meaning of the sacrifices given by the fallen and why it was so important for the remainder of the task force to complete the mission and honor those sacrifices. I would say things like,

“We have already shed tears before tonight over their loss.  We come together to celebrate their lives and rededicate ourselves to the mission they began. This service allows us to pause and recalibrate our own energy and sense of purpose to the greater good, so that we leave this gathering refreshed and oriented on principles that guide our daily actions and serve our souls.”

 

Then I would ask the soldiers to recall Memorial Day Ceremonies and parades from their childhood,

“I want you to close your eyes and imagine that you are back home in New York, Indiana, Kansas, Florida, California, with your family.  You are there at the parade with a daughter, niece, cousin, mother, aunt, uncle, brother waving a small flag, watching veterans, aged well beyond fighting years, march in step to a drum in front of horse drawn carriages.  Close your eyes and smell the roasted peanuts, cotton candy, the aroma of an American parade.  Smell the charcoal in the backyards of homes across the country as burgers cook.  Listen to the sounds of children playing, water guns spraying, squealing with delight, not a care in the world.  These sounds and smells and images of home are why you stand here today, so that others do not have to.  These are only dreams to our Iraqi counterparts, in and out of uniform.  But you and I know these dreams.  We have lived them.  That is why we stand here, protecting the cause of freedom and paying tribute to the sacrifices of those who have gone before us.”

Following the speech, we would solemnly listen to the names of the fallen.

”You will hear many names this evening.  The fallen are listed by date of death, irrespective of rank, honoring the tradition of American officers and NCOs serving side by side with the soldiers they lead.  They range in rank from Private First Class to full Colonel, and they also include our civilian friends and partners who have fallen with us. Their sacrifice proves what the Soldier has known for time immemorial, that freedom is earned.  Those of us gathering at FOB Justice tonight know this truth all too well, as we continue to sacrifice in honor of those who have gone before and in the hope that those standing with us can be free men and women.  They can be free of persecution because of religious beliefs, because of their accent, or because of the color of their skin. These names represent some of the finest warriors our nation has to offer and our enduring commitment to the good people of Iraq.”

As citizens of the United States and delegates and members of the First Amendment Voice alliance, I hope these words will inspire you to understand the depth of commitment those in uniform devote to our Constitution and the freedoms we each enjoy. You have a role to play as well. One where you actively exercise your first amendment rights as a citizen. You exercise your freedom of speech, freedom of religion, you support a free press and the right to assemble peaceably and petition the government for grievance. These are rights bestowed by our Creator and fought for by the Founding Fathers. Current and future generations of Americans and our partners continue to fight and bleed for these rights. We, as citizens, owe it to them to understand and exercise those rights. Democracy requires this minimum standard of its citizens. That is the only way we will thrive as a nation. We each carry a small portion of the flame of liberty within us. Help keep it alive through your active participation.

 

Have a Blessed Memorial Day!

Steven M. Miska
Director, First Amendment Voice