“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.
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.
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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 Mogahed, Najeeba 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.
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.
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!