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.

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.

 

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.

First Amendment Voice 3rd Annual National Symposium

The Third Annual National Symposium took place at the National Constitution Center on September 15th in the City of Philadelphia under the theme “E Pluribus Unum or Divided?” exploring what unites us as a country and where social divisions might be widening. 

The National Constitution Center hosted the symposium for the 3rd year in a row. Morning sessions hosted panel discussions on social divisions as they relate to the First Amendment. A working lunch addressed ways in which we can engage in civil dialogue both as students and non-students. During the afternoon, the forum spotlighted the NFL Kneeling Controversy in a Town Hall forum debate with a veteran, NFL football player and other perspectives featured.

3rd Annual First Amendment Voice National Symposium

3rd Annual First Amendment Voice National Symposium

Our national convening in the City of Philadelphia for our Third Annual National Symposium took place at the National Constitution Center on September 15th. The theme this year was “E Pluribus Unum or Divided?” as we explored what unites us as a country and where social divisions might be widening. 

The National Constitution Center was our host site for the 3rd year in a row. Morning sessions hosted panel discussions on social divisions as they relate to the First Amendment. A working lunch addressed ways in which we can engage in civil dialogue both as students and non-students. During the afternoon, we spotlighted the NFL Kneeling Controversy in a Town Hall forum debate with a veteran, NFL football player and other perspectives featured.

3rd Annual First Amendment Voice National Symposium

2018 National Symposium

The Third Annual National Symposium took place at the National Constitution Center on September 15th in the City of Philadelphia under the theme “E Pluribus Unum or Divided?” exploring what unites us as a country and where social divisions might be widening. 

The National Constitution Center hosted the symposium for the 3rd year in a row. Morning sessions hosted panel discussions on social divisions as they relate to the First Amendment. A working lunch addressed ways in which we can engage in civil dialogue both as students and non-students. During the afternoon, the forum spotlighted the NFL Kneeling Controversy in a Town Hall forum debate with a veteran, NFL football player and other perspectives featured.

Speakers

Janessa Gans Wilder is a former CIA officer turned peacebuilder, social entrepreneur, and nonprofit executive. She is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Euphrates Institute, a grassroots peacebuilding organization. She founded Euphrates after five years at the CIA focused on the Middle East, including serving 21 months in Iraq from 2003-2005. Janessa is a frequent speaker in interfaith, community, government, international, and educational settings. She has written dozens of articles and been interviewed by major news outlets, including CBS, CNN, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, Democracy Now, and many more.

Joe Cohn, FIRE’s Legislative and Policy Director, is a 2004 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the Fels Institute of Government Administration, where he earned his Juris Doctor and Masters in Government Administration.  A former staff attorney for the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and law clerk in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, he also served as a staff attorney at the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, where his work earned him accolades from The Legal Intelligencer and Pennsylvania Law Weekly (“2007 Lawyer on the Fast Track”) in 2007 and from Super Lawyers magazine (“Rising Star”) in 2008. 

Scott Cooper is the National Security Outreach Director at Human Rights First and leads their project ‘Veterans for American Ideals,’ a nonpartisan movement of military veterans to continue their service by using their voices to encourage America to live up to its ideals. He is a retired Marine who served multiple tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kern Beare is a former vice president of communications for a large technology firm in Silicon Valley, CA. After leaving the corporate world in 2005, he co-founded Global Mindshift, a non-profit offering online facilitated workshops on the essential skills we need to survive and thrive in today’s interconnected and interdependent world. Kern is the founder of Pop the Bubble, an initiative to help heal our current national divide. As part of that initiative he travels the country leading a workshop entitled “Difficult Conversations: The art and science of thinking together.”

Chelsea Langston Bombino serves as Director for Sacred Sector, an initiative of the Center for Public Justice.  In this role, Chelsea empowers faith-based organizations and future faith-based leaders to fully embody their sacred missions in every area of their organizational lives, including their public policy engagement, organizational practices, and public positioning. Chelsea also serves as Director for the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance (IRFA), a division of the Center for Public Justice. 

Robert Faris is the Research Director at the Berkman Klein Center and co-author of the book Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics, to be released September 27. His research includes the study of digital communication mechanisms by civil society organizations and social movements, the emergence and impact of digitally-mediated collective action, the influence of networked digital technologies on democracy and governance, and the evolving role of new media in political change. 

Dr. W. Wilson Goode, Sr. is a former Mayor of Philadelphia and the first African American to hold that office (1984-1992). He currently serves as the President and CEO of Amachi, Incorporated, a nationally acclaimed faith-based program for mentoring children of incarcerated parents; and Chairman and CEO of Self, Incorporated – a nonprofit corporation dedicated to serving homeless men and women. He is a Senior Fellow at the Fox School at the University of Pennsylvania. Because of his innovative and ground-breaking work, he received two prestigious awards in 2006: the Civic Ventures Purpose Prize, and the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Citizen of the Year Award.

Rev. Michel Faulkner from Washington, D.C. was an all-star football player that became a freshman All-American and four-year starter at Virginia Tech. Rev. Faulkner graduated with a B.A. in communications and later returned to VA Tech for his MA. He played two seasons (1980-82) in the NFL, one season with the NYJets. He is founder of the Institute for Leadership and currently serves as the Executive Vice President of CE National.

Greg Jaffe is a reporter with The Washington Post who writes about national security and politics. He covered the White House for the Post from 2014-2017. From 2000-2013 Greg covered the Pentagon and the U.S. military for the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, traveling regularly to Iraq and Afghanistan. He is the co-author of “The Forth Star” about the lives of four Army generals and the roles they played in the Iraq War. Jaffe shared a Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for a series on defense spending and won the Gerald R. Ford award for defense coverage in 2002 and 2009.

Will you be in Philadelphia this September 15? This is your chance to win FREE admission to our National Symposium at the National Constitution Center! It’s easy, all you have to do is:

  1.  Follow @1stamendmentvoice 
  2.  Post a photo showing how you bring people together in your community and tag it #FAVunity.

That’s it! Winners selected every week. Your submission will also be eligible for a Grand Prize at the end of August!

Update: Congratulations to Hilary Cohen, our Grand Prize Winner!