April 2019 Newsletter

April 2019 Newsletter

Back in September at the 3rd Annual First Amendment Voice National Symposium in Philadelphia, I met Gary Ell. Gary got inspired during our programming and wanted to get involved. He wasn’t sure how, but after some thought, he had an idea. Here is the story in his own words:

The world has become vehemently divided. Nearly every segment of society has been afflicted through division. We are divided by culture, gender, education, race, religion and political polarization that hinders governance. The 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections created a funnel that has encapsulated the USA and left me feeling divided, exhausted and fearful. As a Professional Photojournalist “sometimes” covering politics, my social media accounts were targeted and trolled. I shared an image on Facebook of my 10 y/o daughter holding a Hillary sign during the 2016 Democratic National Convention. She was so excited to attend the event and show her support of “Girl Power” as many young girls did. I taught my daughter that she can dream big and achieve great things. She believed in this candidate. The trolls did not! She was lambasted for holding that sign and believing in this female candidate. I was deeply disturbed and disgusted. This was my first-hand account of where society was spiraling.

A fire was ignited when I attended the First Amendment Voice Symposium in Philadelphia, P.A. in September 2018. FAV is a non-profit that serves to invigorate citizens to understand and exercise first amendment rights through a collaborative campaign of education and advocacy. I left the symposium feeling a need to “help” society. As a Photographer and Curator for a popular photography hub on Instagram, I had a voice and a platform. By unifying with six other popular photo hubs, we had a combined following of several million followers. We all were in agreement that we have a responsibility as Artists to address the important issues that are dividing the world and solve them visually. We felt that the theme of Unity/Division could help heal a deeply divided society, so we launched the challenge in January 2019.

What did we learn?
The submissions addressed the divisions more than the unity and that was ok. The challenge was like the current pulse of humanity and we don’t necessarily have the answers. It’s like what people feel right now; divided, alone and afraid. We tapped into something, a need that people feel they have to express. That’s what the challenge was about – Encouraging people to conquer the fear of expression or the feeling that their voice doesn’t matter.

Gary exemplifies the effect we try to have with FAV programming. We seek speakers and community leaders who inspire us all to #FindOurVoice and contribute to the public conversation, whether through art, like Gary, or by the multitude of other ways to contribute – the school board, PTA, university, church, synagogue, mosque, city council meeting, and other community organizations. We each have individual talents and a unique “voice.” Our form of government requires citizen participation. If you would like to learn more and feel inspired by Gary’s effort, join FAV in Washington, D.C. this September. Our 4th Annual National Symposium will feature the five winning submissions from Gary’s Instagram contest. Gary will provide an overview of the contest and some of the photographers will attend in person.

Citizenship is not a spectator sport! If you like our newsletter, please share with a friend!

Steve

Coffee Talk Shout-out

Thank you to everyone from Coronado and San Clemente Coffee Talks who recently signed up for our newsletter. We plan to continue to provide relevant programming that interests community members. We will offer national-level videoconference Coffee Talks in the future to paid members and delegates who would like to learn how to start a coffee talk program in their communities.

In The News

Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, wrote the following op-ed in the New York Times. Recent coffee talk attendees have enjoyed discussion of the ideas he presents. Enjoy! READ NOW

Mark Your Calendars

May 10th — Global LA Summit w/ Pacific Council on International Policy

May 11th — Difficult Conversations workshop w/ Kern Beare, LA

September 13-14th — the 4th Annual FAV National Symposium, Washington, D.C.

March 2019 Newsletter

March 2019 Newsletter

Reflections on our first amendment freedoms in a foreign country

As I prepare to leave Amman, following a fruitful visit writing some final thoughts in a forthcoming book, visiting a friend, and seeing nonprofit field operations in action, I paused to reflect on the current state of discourse in our country. We live in a partisan environment where identity politics overrules civility to our fellow human being, where students have begun to mobilize against what they deem as older generational failure to address existential threats (climate change, student debt, post-college employment, the national debt, racism, gun violence and more), where more people have begun tuning out network news (on the right and left), where fear and apathy push voices out of the public square, but where many civic organizations and leaders encourage people to constructively contribute to important conversations in their communities.

Jordan has many more refugees and challenges of immigration than the United States. The vast majority of people inside its borders do not have equal rights. Few believe they can express their fears and be heard. Jordanians blame Iraqis for having spiked rents, and other prices more generally, during the waves of displacement that occurred during the conflict in Iraq. Palestinians feel they will never hold the same job prospects as their Jordanian countrymen, even though many have been here for fifty years. The freedom to assemble and petition the government for grievance pales next to the vibrancy in the United States, yet you would never know comparing the atmosphere here.

Jordan is a model of stability for the region. Jordanians go about their everyday lives. Many have significant grievances. I spent time interacting with nonprofits dealing in the refugee space, learning about the extreme biases and challenges that refugees face. They are not allowed to work. Many can’t afford to put their children through school. They spend their time agonizing over basic necessities, Maslow’s hygiene needs at the lowest level of the hierarchy.

Contrast the relative calm in Jordan to the tumultuous climate in the United States, and I believe it comes from a vibrant citizenry, not only aware of its rights but freely exercising them. A substantial portion of the population has awakened to the threat of losing their rights, whether freely practicing their religion, stating their beliefs, or other means of expression. The very tenor and clamor of expression in the U.S. leads me to assess that citizens and institutions are pushing back against perceived threats. It may be messy. It may sound noisy and shrill, but it may just exhibit the traits of those fundamental rights, granted by a Creator, freely expressed by individuals against perceived state infringements or ineptitude.

So, as much as I am an introvert by nature and need quiet and solitude to recharge my batteries, I take heart from the noise. I see leaders stepping up to start blog conversations, leading coffee talk discussion groups, and engaging their civic institutions to ensure their voices are heard. I may continue to seek my news from late night comedy or podcasts, but I’ll laugh at the comedy while reveling in the idea that democracy lives in the United States, practiced by its people and institutions on a daily basis. That’s a nice thought to come home to, in addition to rejoining my family after some time apart.

Citizenship is not a spectator sport! If you like our newsletter, please share with a friend!

Steve

VOTE now in the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

Do you want to help students attend the next National Symposium in September? Please vote to help FAV sponsor students this year. SLC supports student involvement in citizenship and professional research opportunities. Be a part of helping young men and women learn more about their country and be involved in meaningful engagement in their communities.

Mark Your Calendars

April 6th – Coffee Talk, Coronado, CA SIGN UP HERE

May 10th – Global LA Summit w/ Pacific Council on International Policy

May 11th – Difficult Conversations workshop w/ Kern Beare, LA

January 2019 Newsletter

January 2019 Newsletter

Citizens & Delegates,

The coming year brings great promise for First Amendment Voice. FAV has applied for 501c3 status, beginning the transition from being a project to becoming a separate organization. We look forward to bringing our Philadelphia programming from the National Symposium to Los Angeles this spring, in addition to having community engagements in Atlanta, Columbus, Georgia, Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, and other locations. We hosted a coffee talk last week in San Clemente, California, along with the San Clemente Times to promote press literacy and support local media.

2019 promises to bring more awareness to important first amendment freedoms like practicing religion, self-expression, peaceful assembly to petition the government for grievance, and much more. We hope that if you haven’t made a new year’s resolution that you consider supporting FAV efforts by engaging in your community, supporting FAV programs through volunteering or contributing online or in person, or the many other ways you can make a difference in civic awareness and engagement. We specifically are seeking delegates to represent their states at the annual symposium in September. If you would like to be considered, please reach out today.

We have new advisors joining the movement this year and will make separate announcements in the coming weeks. If you know of anyone who has the expertise to contribute to growing the FAV movement, please reach out and let us know. We also appreciate the active engagement of some blog readers, twitter and Facebook followers, and others who provide constructive feedback and input to civic dialogue. We would like to specifically highlight BottomlessCoffee007 on our blog and twitter feed. If you haven’t seen the comments, you can find them here. Active participation in civic dialogue helps contribute to a robust, vibrant community. If you haven’t contributed yet, we hope you consider it this year. Please comment on our blogs, like/retweet or comment on twitter, like or share on Facebook, and like/comment on LinkedIn. We welcome and benefit from your input. With gratitude for the past three years and a promising future.

#FindYourVoice

The FAV Team

 

In the Media

Outrage Nation: Can America overcome its addiction to anger? Read more

Mark Your Calendars

January 12th in Coronado, CA Kern Beare leads a Difficult Conversations workshop. Click here for more details.

February 5th in Atlanta, GA Dr. Paul Murray and Steve Miska lead FAV Clergy Training on religious freedom

February 7-9 in Columbus, GA Steve Miska leads FAV coffee talks at various organizations

March TBD in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX Steve Miska leads FAV coffee talks at various organizations

April TBD in Los Angeles, CA the Pacific Council on International Policy hosts their annual Global LA Summit featuring FAV National Symposium programming

September TBD in Philadelphia FAV hosts the 4th Annual National Symposium

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Citizens & Delegates,

The coming year brings great promise for First Amendment Voice. FAV has applied for 501c3 status, beginning the transition from being a project to becoming a separate organization. We look forward to bringing our Philadelphia programming from the National Symposium to Los Angeles this spring, in addition to having community engagements in Atlanta, Columbus, Georgia, Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, and other locations. We hosted a coffee talk last week in San Clemente, California, along with the San Clemente Times to promote press literacy and support local media.

2019 promises to bring more awareness to important first amendment freedoms like practicing religion, self-expression, peaceful assembly to petition the government for grievance, and much more. We hope that if you haven’t made a new year’s resolution that you consider supporting FAV efforts by engaging in your community, supporting FAV programs through volunteering or contributing online or in person, or the many other ways you can make a difference in civic awareness and engagement. We specifically are seeking delegates to represent their states at the annual symposium in September. If you would like to be considered, please reach out today.

We have new advisors joining the movement this year and will make separate announcements in the coming weeks. If you know of anyone who has the expertise to contribute to growing the FAV movement, please reach out and let us know. We also appreciate the active engagement of some blog readers, twitter and Facebook followers, and others who provide constructive feedback and input to civic dialogue. We would like to specifically highlight BottomlessCoffee007 on our blog and twitter feed. If you haven’t seen the comments, you can find them here. Active participation in civic dialogue helps contribute to a robust, vibrant community. If you haven’t contributed yet, we hope you consider it this year. Please comment on our blogs, like/retweet or comment on twitter, like or share on Facebook, and like/comment on LinkedIn. We welcome and benefit from your input. With gratitude for the past three years and a promising future.

#FindYourVoice

The FAV Team

 

In the Media

Outrage Nation: Can America overcome its addiction to anger? Read more

Mark Your Calendars

January 12th in Coronado, CA Kern Beare leads a Difficult Conversations workshop. Click here for more details.

February 5th in Atlanta, GA Dr. Paul Murray and Steve Miska lead FAV Clergy Training on religious freedom

February 7-9 in Columbus, GA Steve Miska leads FAV coffee talks at various organizations

March TBD in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX Steve Miska leads FAV coffee talks at various organizations

April TBD in Los Angeles, CA the Pacific Council on International Policy hosts their annual Global LA Summit featuring FAV National Symposium programming

September TBD in Philadelphia FAV hosts the 4th Annual National Symposium

December 2018 Newsletter

December 2018 Newsletter

FAV Friends,

I wanted to share a theme, more of a feeling, that many of you probably experienced over the Thanksgiving holiday. That feeling was one of gratitude. I felt grateful for the opportunity to not only spend a wonderful dinner with family, but also to share a hiking and camping adventure with my son on Catalina Island. Given that Rob is now a working guy, Thanksgiving weekend was one of the few times during the year when he had four days off. Since the weather would also probably cooperate with us, we decided to hike the Trans Catalina Trail. Catalina Island lies 45 miles off the coast of Los Angeles.

Early Thanksgiving morning, Rob and I boarded a ferry bound for Avalon, the main town on the island. While that day would be arduous, we persevered through ten miles of mountainous terrain to make it to Blackjack campsite just before sunset. No leg of the remainder of the hike would challenge us like that. Gratefully, we feasted on a BBQ dinner and fell asleep early as a little rain drifted in. During the next three days, we enjoyed incredible sunsets, starlit nighttime skies, and raw nature. Wild bison surprised us, one of us walked into a cactus and needed some patching up, and shared hardship bonded us. While we both missed church that Sunday, we enjoyed a spiritual experience in nature that helped us reflect on the past year and dream about the next.

First Amendment Voice is looking forward to 2019 with gratitude, hoping that we can continue creating inclusive conversations that allows citizens to come together to bridge divides in our country. We hope you continue engaging with us as we educate and advocate for free expression, being able to freely practice our religions, press freedom, and the rights to assemble and petition government for change. We are thankful for your active participation in our Republic and hope you will help us inspire others to engage in the public square.

With appreciation for your support & interest,

Steve Miska and the FAV team


In the Media

Here is an interesting podcast exploring urban legends or other societal misperceptions – Perception Gaps by the Christian Science Monitor

On the value of our Constitution: This is an inspiring piece, published posthumously, from the late Charles Krauthammer about the rare reverence American citizens have for the Constitution. Enjoy.


UPCOMING EVENTS

Spring 2019 – FAV participation in the Global LA Summit sponsored by the Pacific Council on International Policy

October Updates from First Amendment Voice

“Speech is powerful. It’s the lifeblood of democracy, a precondition for the discovery of truth, and vital to our self-development. But speech is also dangerous. It can corrupt democracy, enable or incite crime, encourage enemies, and interfere with government.”

Those words were written Lawrence Tribe and Joshua Matz in their 2014 book on the Robert’s Court, Uncertain Justice. We see examples of their analysis before us each and every day.

Over the course of the last couple of years, I had the pleasure of dining in an intimate environment with Jamal Khashoggi. I always came away with new insights about the Middle East, and in particular, trends within Saudi Arabia. He had an insider’s perspective as he spoke truth to power from self-imposed exile in Virginia. Journalism today has become more dangerous. It has always been dangerous. A friend and Getty Images photojournalist, Chris Hondros, embedded with my units about ten times while I served in Iraq. Chris didn’t make it back from covering the Libyan conflict in 2011. Another colleague, Regis LeSommier, with Paris Match, has interviewed Bashar al Assad twice in the last few years. In order for the world to understand what is going on in dark corners of humanity, we need intrepid journalists willing to risk their lives in order to get the story.

However, the climate in the United States has gone from loss of confidence in public institutions, the media being one, to hostility in some circles. This has led to attacks on media organizations. Of course, journalists, and media organizations exhibit bias. All human beings do. But we should resist the urge to demonize journalists and the organizations they represent. Media organizations that have shifted from more objective, fact based reporting to opinion have done so based on market conditions. That’s what we, as Americans, have asked for. While we talk a good talk in terms of just wanting the news, neuroscientists have documented the effects of seeking self-affirming sources of information. We like it when we believe we are right. Reading or hearing a story that confirms our own preconceived narratives feels good.

FAV is happy to continue our coffee talk program that provides a forum for civil discussion about press freedom and other pressing First Amendment issues. If you would like to learn more about coffee talks or host one, please reach out. We would love to promote more opportunities for citizens to come together and explore ideas relevant in your community.

Yours in service,

Steve Miska and the FAV Team


Didn’t get a chance to attend last month’s National Symposium in Philadelphia? Watch newly released videos on our YouTube channel to get a sense for the experience that participants enjoyed. Don’t forget to Subscribe.