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.


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!

Instagram Contest for Students -Closed-

Instagram Contest for Students -Closed-

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

Hilary Cohen’s #FAVunity Instagram submission shows how she is helping build bridges in her community and beyond

Instagram Contest for Students

Will you be in Philadelphia this September 15th? This is your chance to win FREE admission to our National Symposium at the National Constitution Center! Learn more about our dynamic symposium HERE and keep reading to see details on our Instagram Contest for students. Don’t want to wait? REGISTER NOW.

Prizes and How to Win

The Grand Prize recipient gets free attendance to the Symposium VIP Reception on September 14th at the Wyndham Hotel in downtown Philadelphia, free admission to the Symposium at the National Constitution Center on September 15th, and a free tour of the new American Revolution Museum in Philadelphia. Ten runners up get free admission to the Symposium.

Post a photo on your Instagram that answers the question, “What do you do in your community to bring people together?” Use the hashtag #FAVUnity and like @1stamendmentvoice on Instagram to qualify for a Grand Prize and ten runners up prizes.

Time Limit: August 1-31st, 2018

Winners will be selected:

  • August 31: 10 Runners Up and GRAND PRIZE Winner (selected from whole month submissions)


  • Entrants can be any active student, whether high school, undergrad, graduate, PhD, etc.
  • Entrants agree to allow First Amendment Voice (FAV) to use any photos submitted for promotional purposes in the Symposium or future events.
  • In order to qualify, entrants must post a photo using the hashtag #FAVUnity and follow @1stamendmentvoice on Instagram.
  • Only entries submitted between August 1st and August 31st, 2018 will be considered.

This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram.

March Newsletter

March Newsletter

FAV Family,

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.

Please forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues you think would appreciate FAV’s work. Subscribe here.

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 MogahedNajeeba 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. 

ICYMI: “Own Your Liberty” National Symposium

ICYMI: “Own Your Liberty” National Symposium

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.

[ngg_images source=”galleries” container_ids=”4″ display_type=”photocrati-nextgen_basic_slideshow” gallery_width=”600″ gallery_height=”400″ cycle_effect=”shuffle” cycle_interval=”5″ show_thumbnail_link=”0″ thumbnail_link_text=”[Show thumbnails]” order_by=”sortorder” order_direction=”ASC” returns=”included” maximum_entity_count=”500″]


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!


September 11 Remembrance

September 11 Remembrance


On Patriot’s Day, it is always appropriate to take a moment and reflect on the sacrifice of those killed in the deadly attacks and those who continue to guard the frontlines of freedom, whether in the armed services, law enforcement, from the pulpit, or in our community organizations. September 11th, 2001 has been etched in the memories of mankind for sixteen years now.  Everyone of age can remember exactly what they were doing when they found out about the attacks; most joined a stunned world to watch as media broadcast the strikes repeatedly on international news.  While in class at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, I joined fellow officers to watch the footage from the first strike at 8:46 a.m. with smoke still billowing from the north tower.  Sixteen minutes later the second plane hit the south tower on live television.  35 minutes later a third plane struck the Pentagon.  At 9:59 a.m. Eastern Standard Time the southern tower collapsed after burning for 56 minutes.  The north tower came down shortly thereafter.  At 10:03 a.m. the fourth plane went down due to the heroic efforts of passengers who decided to fight back.  It did not take some Americans long to realize there was a war going on.  The instincts of the passengers of United Airlines flight 93 probably saved the lives of hundreds of people. The attacks were symbolically chosen to strike at the heart of U.S. economic power (the World Trade Center), military might (the Pentagon), and political center (many analysts predict that Flight 93’s target was either the White House or Capitol Building). The attacks were meant to inspire fear.

So sixteen years later our nation finds itself still engaged in fighting Al Qaeda. We, as citizens, stand together today on the frontiers of freedom.  Some of us are tired and bear the scars of battle, both inside and out.  But we dare not falter.  The intrepid spirit that spawned a nation of free loving people must continue to stoke the fires of passion.  Complacency is our greatest threat. Many Americans have grown tired.  They bear the psychological scars of emotional loss, unspeakable atrocities and brutal existence.  Some have no hope.  Let us not enter those ranks!

Regardless of where we find ourselves, conscientious citizens will serve to the utmost of their ability, committed to making a difference for their fellow human beings or defeating evil.  As John Stuart Mill reminds us, “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”  Although this is probably one of Mill’s most repeated quotes in military circles, I will leave you with my favorite.  “One person with belief is worth 99 of those with only an interest.”  The world is changed by small groups of committed, passionate individuals.  Don’t let opportunities pass you by.  You can make a difference.