July 2019 Newsletter

July 2019 Newsletter

Dear FAV Advocates,

Let’s hear from a veteran who sheds his military uniform and looks for ways to keep serving in his community in Georgia.

Hello Everyone,

I just recently joined the First Amendment Voice (FAV) team as the South Eastern Region Delegate. It is with great excitement that I finally get to introduce myself to a great network of colleagues and fellow civil servants. Currently, I’m a Junior Sociology student at Columbus State University. I’m also a husband and father of two children living in the great State of Georgia. Before starting my post-secondary education, I was enlisted in the Army for 8 years and served three combat tours as an Infantryman.

While transitioning from the military, I was in search of a new mission that would also embody some of the important values that I wholeheartedly supported and fought for while enlisted. Most important of those were duty and selfless service. When I came across First Amendment Voice in its earlier stage with Executive Director Steve Miska, it was during the 2016 election. It was around this time, I resolved to bring unity to my community and to dedicate my life towards a greater good.

During this time, I developed a plan through prayer, to continue my duty and selfless service by seeking out local, state, and federal civil service opportunities while continuing my education.  I completed a fellowship with The Mission Continues nonprofit organization, and this last spring, I completed an internship with the Georgia General Assembly.   As I was building networks and growing my experience, I was also preparing myself for federal level service. As an advocate for FAV, it was easy for me to begin serving as a delegate.

I look forward to growing the organization and partnerships.  First up: get an on-campus club started early fall. FAV is on the agenda, and I have the support of multiple faculty members to include the Sociology Department Chair. I have also been approved to start on-campus engagements and look forward to creating a campus kit that can further help future colleges across the country as our organization grows in membership and support.

Again, it is with great excitement that I get to be a part of FAV, and that I have the honor to work surrounded by so many like-minded and passion driven people. I look forward to meeting all at the FAV National Symposium in the Fall!

Sincerely,

Dylan S. Fessler

Delegate FAV

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

Steve

Podcast

We are very excited to bring the #FindYourVoice podcast to our audience. If you don’t have time to read the email or prefer to learn more during your morning commute, download our podcast. We take the inspirational stories from the monthly newsletter and provide more context.

In the News

Quiz: Can You Answer the Hardest Citizenship Test Questions? – The New York Times

Written by a Republican strategist, Claire Hardwick. This is a nice story about the importance of talking to others with differing opinions. 

Democrats and Republicans are very bad at guessing each other’s beliefs – The Washington Post

Upcoming Events

Delegate Coffee Talk, August 7th, 8 pm EST, videoconference (delegates & paid members only)

Symposium 2019, September 20-21st, Washington, D.C.

Symposium 2020, September 18-19th, Philadelphia

June 2019 Newsletter

June 2019 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

Many of you may have noticed we kicked off a membership drive last week. Please consider becoming a paid member to help us bring FAV programming to those who lack the resources or access. We are grateful to a generous donor who provided matching donations to help incentivize our campaign. Double your impact now due to the matching donations. More details below. Paid membership comes with exclusive benefits and the knowledge you are helping FAV reach those who may not feel they have a voice in their communities.

This month’s good news story features a community partner, the i5 Freedom Network. The Executive Director, Brenda Wells, started the organization to make an impact against human trafficking. She is currently collaborating with FAV to hold a community forum in San Clemente to raise awareness about illicit massage parlors and to pass a city ordinance to make it more difficult for those establishments to open up. Culling best practices from other nearby cities, Brenda proposed measures that would significantly strengthen the current ordinance. By reviewing websites that feature illicit establishments in town, Brenda assessed that almost one dozen illegitimate establishments operate in San Clemente. These are usually run by organized crime. Most people are unaware of this going on. The i5/FAV public forum will feature speakers to educate the public, including from law enforcement, legitimate massage establishments, city officials, and a survivor of massage parlor trafficking.

The goals of the public panel discussion are twofold: 1) gain momentum to pass a significantly strengthened massage parlor ordinance and 2) raise public awareness on the importance of individuals lending their voice to important community conversations. Brenda is a heroine in the local community, but more importantly, will inspire average citizens to get involved in making their city safer and preventing trafficking from occurring in San Clemente. First Amendment Voice is proud to partner with Brenda and the i5 Freedom Network.

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

Steve

 

June Membership Drive

Please consider supporting FAV efforts to push back against fear and apathy and inspire people to #FindTheirVoice and contribute to public discourse. Remember Gary’s story from the April newsletter? If you didn’t get a chance to read it, click the link. Story’s like Gary starting an Instagram contest to promote understanding about Unity and Division in our communities are why FAV exists. Basic membership costs just $25/ year and offers an automatic $25 discount on Symposium registration, in addition to exclusive benefits like our national coffee talk live videoconferences.

Would you like to help others #FindTheirVoice as well as enjoy the benefits of unique FAV programming? Consider becoming a Sustaining member at either the $1,000 or $500 level. Sustaining members get an invitation to our VIP tour of the Capitol Building the evening before the National Symposium in Washington, D.C.

DOUBLE YOUR IMPACT 

Thanks to the generosity of a FAV donor, we have two $5,000 matching grants. One to help stimulate the membership drive and the other to challenge $1,000 donors to step up and support FAV efforts to extend our programming to those who might not have the resources to attend without assistance. FAV routinely convenes very diverse audiences who get the opportunity to interact with each other in enriching environments. Please help us achieve our goal. Any level of contribution helps us reach the $5,000 mark. Give here 

In The News

A report from the Hudson Institute has interesting statistics on the state of anti-Semitism in the U.S. More details here.

This is a fascinating piece about young people who watched YouTube content, both far right and left, and how it can sway beliefs. It’s a fascinating look at one young man’s journey. Read more.

Save the Date

4th Annual National Symposium September 20-21 – the theme is “Polarization.” Paid members get an invitation to an exclusive VIP tour of the Capitol Building after hours. Spaces are limited, so register soon. Sustaining level donors at the $1,000 level get two tickets to the VIP tour while $500 level donors get one ticket. Guarantee that you get the experience to explore polarization in our society.

May 2019 Newsletter

May 2019 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

I spent some time reflecting on a combat deployment yearbook last weekend as I worked on the 4th draft of a book manuscript. It was appropriate on Memorial Day, not only to consider those who made the ultimate sacrifice, but also to renew my own vigor in response to service. It reminds me of the message I gave troops on Memorial Day in combat. Do we want to truly honor those who laid down their lives? Then we should not only remember them, but we should live our lives in a way to honor their sacrifice. We should not only serve great causes but also contribute to the public discourse as conscientious citizens, whether at the school board meeting, the local VFW, Rotary Club, or faith group. We should model citizenship for our children as a means to demonstrate why democracy requires vibrant citizens. That is a way to really show our appreciation. After all, we like to say that the men and women who gave the fullest measure did so for our freedom. If we believe that, we should exercise that freedom. 

For example, a teacher named Amy recently taught her third grade class about environmental awareness. After explaining some of the hazards that scientists and advocates have pointed out, she challenged the kids to look for ways to make a difference in their own lives. They worked in groups and considered different ideas that might reduce waste in their school, at home, or by helping make adults more environmentally conscious. One of the groups proposed eliminating the plastic milk containers in the cafeteria that use straws and are not made of recyclable material. They asked why the school did not use the traditional recyclable milk cartons that required no straw? Struck by the common sense of the idea, Amy encouraged her students further. They gathered a list of over 400 names on a petition. They sent a letter to the principal, and Amy reached out to the district level official in charge of managing the school’s cafeteria program.

What struck me about this example was how uncommon it seemed. Amy could have simply commended the students for the great idea. She might have mentioned it to her teacher colleagues in the faculty lounge, and that could have been it. Instead, she modeled to the students how civic-minded individuals affect change in their community. The students “learned by doing” after receiving their environmental lesson. And so, the lesson continues throughout the school year. The district level leader addressed the students in class last week. She explained the process of making changes to the procurement system for the cafeteria. She also approved the students to test a pilot program to assess the impact of their idea. The students are also learning that good ideas are only the start of impacting their environment (or affecting any change). Thomas Edison stated that genius was 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. That’s a good life lesson for citizens. Amy’s students are learning that as well.

While Memorial Day Weekend is a time for reflection, a time to be inspired by examples of tremendous sacrifice, the rest of the year is a time for participation at all levels of community and family. In that way, you will both remember those who have sacrificed as well as honor their memories through your service to the community. Serving something greater than yourself tends to bring happiness in life.

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

Steve

2019 National Symposium

#FindYourVoice at this year’s National Symposium where we will explore polarization, its current impact on society, and the role each of us plays.  

Mark your calendars for September in Washington, D.C. As soon as FAV confirms a venue and date, (either September 14th or 21st) we will notify all.

Spotlight on our Partners

First Amendment Voice is a community partner for the Global LA Summit held on May 10, 2019, which featured two panel discussions on press freedom. They also hosted a Difficult Conversations workshop featuring Kern Bear the following day. FAV is grateful for the Pacific Council’s partnership and support to raising awareness and inspiring civic action amongst their members. >>LEARN MORE

In the News

This Religion News Service reports on findings of this year’s American Muslim Poll, the fourth annual survey of U.S. faith communities conducted by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington, D.C. READ MORE

You may have heard about the controversy over a police raid of a journalist in San Francisco that continues to make national headlines. The following Columbia Journalism Review piece provides an overview. READ MORE

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