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.
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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!
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.
For added perspective on the challenges of policing and interactions in African American neighborhoods, FAV recommends Jill Leovy’s Ghettoside book. Leovy adds a new voice to understanding a way forward for America with respect to police forces and violence.
Read the LA Times book review here to learn more:
The Foundation on Individual Rights in Education or FIRE
The organization annually rates colleges with respect to freedom of expression. They publish a top ten list for colleges that do not live up to the ideals of free expression, usually for a variety of reasons. They have many other resources on the website that enable serious thought about free expression.
Top ten list https://www.thefire.org/fire-announces-10-worst-colleges-for-free-speech-2016/
FIRE’s 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech
- Mount St. Mary’s University
- Northwestern University
- Louisiana State University
- University of California, San Diego
- Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
- University of Oklahoma
- Marquette University
- Colorado College
- University of Tulsa
- Wesleyan University