November 2019 Newsletter

November 2019 Newsletter

FAV Faithful,

As we approach #GivingTuesday and the final month of 2019, I would like to remind you why it is so important we lead the charge to protect the space for civil disagreement and other first amendment freedoms. These are not esoteric ideas that the Founding Fathers developed over two hundred years ago with no contemporary relevance. Every day, we see attacks against religious freedom, freedom of the press, and free expression. I want to take a moment to highlight a current issue trending around the world that has a significant impact on the United States if we sit on the sidelines and do nothing.

Repressive regimes in other countries routinely suppress the free expression of their people. You might want to wash your hands of that problem if you believe that it is up to the people to resolve their own challenges. Many agree with that position. However, what should you do when a foreign power attempts to limit freedom of expression here in the United States? If you are like me, a passionate advocate of the principles embodied within the Constitution, then you might want to challenge foreign government interference in our democratic way of life.

You may recall the recent efforts by the Chinese government to modify the NBA’s statements about the protests in Hong Kong. This is not new for other countries to attempt to limit American free expression by employing corporate interests. In 1980 the government of Saudi Arabia attempted to prevent a British documentary, Death of a Princess, from being aired on PBS. Fortunately, most PBS stations aired the program despite Exxon’s attempts to sway their decision. Exxon had sponsored PBS’ Masterpiece Theater since 1971 and was the largest corporate sponsor at the time and would go on to be the largest corporate sponsor in the history of public television, contributing over $250 million over 32 years. Thus, you could see that the firm might be able to sway PBS’ decision on whether to air a film that could impact business interests. PBS, to their credit, aired the documentary at the time. However, if you haven’t ever seen the film, you might be surprised to find that you also missed the 25th anniversary of its showing in 2005 and can no longer watch it. It has aired twice in the U.S. and only once in Britain, where similar corporate interests attempted to prevent the showing on British television.

Saudi has not limited attempts to stifle free expression to America. They are most aggressive against Saudi citizens routinely bullying them on social media and going so far as to cut Jamal Khashoggi into little pieces in their embassy in Turkey, causing an international outcry. They have also attempted to pressure Qatar to shut down Al Jazeera, a dominant news organization in the Middle East.

Of course, these infringements on basic freedoms are not new. We see examples across the world like currently in Iraq, which is an assault on free assembly and expression. Snipers, allegedly trained by Iran, have consistently been targeting protesters who are simply calling attention to a gross lack of possibilities for jobs and basic services while government leaders enjoy the comforts of luxury all provided by oil wealth. We see less egregious cases in the United States with conservative college students feeling constrained in their ability to voice their opinions or journalists fearing for their own safety from overzealous Trump supporters. While the scale and effectiveness of the domestic attacks may seem minor to some, we cannot allow the erosion of essential freedoms, fundamental human rights, to be walked back. Only U.S. citizens can defend the freedoms. Take a stand today and help FAV advocate and educate on the issues.

With much gratitude,

Steve & the FAV Team

In the News

How 3 Teachers Took on the Civics Gap—NEA Today—this is a great story on teaching civics in the classroom and how innovative teachers can make a difference in student learning.

Thank you to special advisor, Ed Lowry, who submitted this article that describes attributes for civic engagement: Fast Times at Capitalism High — What Young People Need to Thrive – InsideSources

Studies Released: Tools to fight disinformation

From RAND—People have access to more information than ever before. But it can still be hard to distinguish accurate information from low-quality or false content. That’s why RAND created a database of tools aimed at fighting the spread of disinformation online. These include websites run by human fact-checkers, apps that use artificial intelligence to detect bots, and games that teach players how to spot disinformation. The database is part of our Countering Truth Decay initiative, which aims to restore the role of facts and analysis in American public life.Explore the database »

Giving Tuesday

We have made tremendous strides this year in creating forums to allow for civil discourse and understanding around first amendment freedoms. Help us continue to make a difference in our diverse communities across the nation.

$1,000 offers … covers two coffee talks, two VIP tickets, recognition at reception

            $500 offers … sustaining member covers the cost of one local coffee talk, free VIP ticket

            $250 offers … allows purchase of campus advocacy kit – list materials

            $100 offers … support local delegate kit – business cards, other promotional materials

            $50 offers … allows free student or veteran attendance at Symposium

            $25 offers … basic membership includes special invites & discounts at Symposium

            Can’t donate today? – sign up for our free newsletter to learn more about FAV impact

FAV is proud to announce we achieved the Bronze Seal of Transparency from Guidestar already this year. Please consider contributing to FAV as part of your end of year giving.

Upcoming Events

Coming up in DC – 5 December, Times Talks – Women of the 116th Congress

This bi-partisan discussion takes place at the Newseum. Tickets cost $25, get them HERE 

San Clemente, CA – January 15 in combination with the i5 Freedom Network. “Should Prostitution Be Legal?”

San Clemente, CA – February 29, Difficult Conversations Workshop – Save the Date

October 2019 Newsletter

October 2019 Newsletter

Community Leaders,

Do you sometimes wonder if the work you’re doing is having the impact you hope for? In early September the FAV team and I wrestled with pulling together the people and details for the National Symposium in Washington, D.C. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I read a note via email from a name I didn’t recognize.

Benedict Cosgrove from New York City

Greetings from Brooklyn —

I just wanted to send a quick note, outside of the LinkedIn ecosystem, to express my admiration for what you and your colleagues are working toward with First Amendment Voice — and also to offer my thanks.

For the past few years, frustrated with what I’ve seen happening in Washington DC, I’ve contributed a number of opinion pieces to media outlets in the U.S. and abroad. Writing those pieces was certainly cathartic — but it’s also become clear that I’ve sort of been shouting in a bubble.

The emphasis on dialog and civil debate that FAV and similar orgs espouse hits home. I don’t disavow the arguments I’ve made in those op-eds — not all of them, anyway — but engaging with others, rather than voicing disgust and (yes) anger, does seem a far more rational way to go about embracing the responsibilities of citizenship.

So — thank you for the work you’re doing in this space, and for the straightforward, compelling questions you’ve posed on LinkedIn. They’ve gotten me thinking — rather than simply ranting.

And good luck with the symposium later this month.

With respect,

Ben

The audience listens during the 2019 Symposium as Steve Miska describes the impact Ben’s message had on him

Needless to say, Ben’s note lifted my morale instantly. I knew that FAV programming impacted people when they attended one of our events. What I struggled with was whether we were reaching people through other mediums like LinkedIn. Subsequently, Ben and I have spoken on the phone and intend to explore the impact of FAV messaging in the next episode of FAV’s podcast, Find Your Voice. Look for this new episode in the coming days. If you haven’t listened in before, check out some of our previous episodes here.

Are there people in your life who might benefit from the good news stories we share? Please recommend our free newsletter to friends and family. FAV is growing, but we depend on you to find the next person in need of toning down the rhetoric and seeking understanding within your community. Sign up here

With Gratitude,

Steve & the FAV Team 

Symposium photo gallery – Check out photos from our recent Symposium in Washington, D.C. Be sure not to miss next year’s event in Philadelphia. 

In the News

Civics in the Classroom: This is a story about a high school teacher going above and beyond to teach civics in the classroom based on current events. FAV encourages leaders at all levels: community, classroom, family to engage younger generations in the basics of civic education, especially as it relates to first amendment freedoms.

 Supporting Local News: One of the issues attendees at coffee talk programs hear about is the importance of local news organizations in providing transparency over local government. This Knight Foundation initiative is geared to help grow awareness about retaining and improving local news capacity.

Please plug: share our newsletter with friends and family. Encourage them to sign up! FAV wants to grow in our ability to inspire citizens.

4th Annual Symposium Held in Washington D.C.

4th Annual Symposium Held in Washington D.C.

ANNUAL FIRST AMENDMENT SYMPOSIUM ADDRESSES THE IMPACT OF POLARIZATION IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE

WASHINGTON DC—The fourth annual national symposium held by First Amendment Voice (FAV) was hosted at the National Union Building on September 21 under the theme, “Polarization and the Public Square.”

Convened around the anniversary of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day (September 17), the symposium gathered civic leaders, veterans, and students to re-affirm the importance of the First Amendment; its promises and protections for all citizens and address the impact of polarization in our public square.

Keynote speaker, Bonnie Carroll, is a retired Major of the Air Force Reserves and is the widow of an Army general who died along with seven other soldiers in a National Guard plane crash in 1992. Out of that loss, she founded the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, which is today the national program providing comfort and care for all who are grieving the death of a military loved one.

“I believe strongly in connection and dialogue,” said Ms. Carroll. Describing the importance of peer support and creating shared spaces to build a network to help families experiencing loss, Ms. Carroll likened the process of building bridges to connecting people across all aisles, whether political, ideological, geographical or otherwise, experiencing it herself through her work around the world, including Yemen and Ukraine. “We are here today to be in the place where talking, listening, and institutions and civil society results in problem-solving. I believe there is magic waiting for us all in the middle ground where there is room for peaceful, non-threatening exchange.”

Ms. Carroll was joined by colleagues with backgrounds in public policy, law, veteran affairs, nonprofit and peacebuilding, and more to be a part of the discussion on social divisions and the impact of polarization as it all relates to the First Amendment. Moderating a panel on “Polarization—a Survey,” Chelsea Langston Bombino from the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance introduced journalist and author Lu Hanessian to discuss trends in press freedom. She was joined by fellow panelists Dr. Lisa Schirch who covered trends in technology and Ross Irwin, a student at UC Berkley who brought a perspective on freedom of speech on campus who encouraged students and community leaders to participate in discussions that open the dialogue across political affiliation. Mr. Irwin even pointed to the responsibility of parents in educating children and themselves to distinguish bias in the media.

Referred by Ms. Hanessian as an ambiguous umbrella term, media as a whole has become a colossal source of information in which the responsibility relies on the consumer to distinguish and obtain differing perspectives. Directing attention to the instances in which the media has oftentimes—even unintentionally—taken away the humanity of opposing views, she warned, “Polarization goes hand-in-hand with dehumanization. By the time we’re polarized, we don’t much care for the other person.”

A working lunch equipped the forum’s participants with the necessary tools to engage in the public square with an interactive “Difficult Conversations” workshop by Kern Beare from Pop the Bubble and Pete Swanson, Director for the Office of Conflict Management and Prevention at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation.

The afternoon featured a special Town Hall forum that highlighted pioneers in forging civic consensus within their organizations moderated by Larry Rosenberg, a trial, appellate and Supreme Court litigator at Jones Day in Washington, D.C. Speakers included Janessa Gans-Wilder, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Euphrates Institute and Larry D. Hall, the Secretary for the North Carolina Department of Military & Veterans Affairs.

First Amendment Voice (FAV) is a non-profit, nonpartisan movement created to bring awareness, provide education and promote advocacy for citizens to exercise their First Amendment freedoms of expression, religion, press, petition, and assembly while encouraging citizens to understand, protect, and exercise those rights through ongoing programs like the annual symposium. The fourth annual FAV National Symposium was convened in partnership with Global Peace Foundation, Nation’s Mosque, Glass River Media, Veterans for American Ideals, Vale UMC, the Inman Foundation Inc, and SLC Consulting.

4th Annual National Symposium

4th Annual National Symposium

Our Fourth Annual National Symposium was hosted in our Nation’s Capital, Washington, DC at the National Union Building on September 21st. 

The VIP experience included a Friday evening tour of the Capitol Building on September 20th. Our theme this year was “Polarization & the Public Square,” where we convened to re-affirm the importance of the First Amendment; it’s promises and protections for all citizens and addressed the impact of polarization in our public square.

The day began at 9:00am with a continental breakfast and was followed by a morning session that hosted a panel discussion on social divisions and the impact of polarization as it all relates to the First Amendment. A working lunch equipped participants with the necessary tools to engage in the public square. During the afternoon, we held a special Town Hall forum that highlighted pioneers in forging civic consensus within their organizations.

FAV 4th Annual Symposium to Address Polarization in the Public Square

FAV 4th Annual Symposium to Address Polarization in the Public Square

ANNUAL FIRST AMENDMENT VOICE SYMPOSIUM TO ADDRESS THE IMPACT OF POLARIZATION IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE

WASHINGTON DC—The fourth annual national symposium held by First Amendment Voice will be hosted at the National Union Building on September 21 under the theme, “Polarization and the Public Square.” Convened around the anniversary of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day (September 17), the symposium is meant to remind citizens of their important role in governance and the need to engage in order to promote the vitality of society. Civic leaders, veterans, and students will assemble to address the impact of polarization in our public square.

The symposium will feature esteemed speakers including Ms. Bonnie Carroll, founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a nonprofit providing comfort and care for all who are grieving the death of a military loved one. Ms. Carroll will be joined by colleagues with backgrounds in public policy, law, veteran affairs, nonprofit and peacebuilding to be a part of the discussion on social divisions and the impact of polarization as it all relates to the First Amendment. Sessions will also include a panel on technology as it impacts first amendment freedoms, a working lunch to equip participants with the necessary tools to engage in the public square, as well as a special Town Hall forum that will highlight pioneers in service within organizations that offer others the opportunity to serve in civic capacities where volunteers check partisanship at the door.

First Amendment Voice (FAV) strives to educate and raise awareness about trends in the First Amendment space, including media bias and technology as it impacts information consumption and discourse. The annual symposium will incorporate a “Difficult Conversations” workshop while a Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service trainer will give people tools for engagement in the public square. Ultimately, participants will leave inspired that their voices matter, and they can lend their opinions to important conversations in their communities. 

FAV is a non-profit, nonpartisan movement created to bring awareness, provide education and promote advocacy for citizens to exercise their First Amendment freedoms of expression, religion, press, petition, and assembly while encouraging citizens to understand, protect, and exercise those rights through ongoing programs like community coffee talks and the annual symposium. Executive Director, Steve Miska, served in the Army for 25 years and has since conducted nonpartisan local programming across the country to inspire people to “Find Their Voice.”

We found that many people felt afraid to offer an opinion about sensitive issues in the public square, fearing retribution. They ranged from college students to members of different faith communities. We also found others who didn’t think their voice mattered, mostly young people, feeling that elected officials and older generations wouldn’t listen to their opinions. FAV views both trends, fear, and apathy, as threats to our form of government. The health of the republic rests on the vibrancy of its citizenry. 

FAV aims to inspire people to lend their voice to important discussions in their community. “Citizenship is not a spectator sport!” says Miska. “Founded on a motto of E Pluribus Unum, (out of many, one) we have more in common with each other than we think, if we could only drop the partisan contempt and look for common ground.” 

Learn more about First Amendment Voice and the upcoming symposium at www.firstamendmentvoice.org.