Summertime Covid Blues?

Summertime Covid Blues?

FAV Fans,

The virus has returned with a vengeance after most states relaxed restrictions, causing the case numbers and death toll to spike. We will get through this. It reminds me of dark times amidst sectarian violence in Baghdad. The hits kept coming, for servicemembers and the Iraqi people. It seemed like a never-ending spiral of death and violence. In times like this I found that the human spirit needs hope, something to cling to. We need to actively look for the silver lining. Emotionally, the bad experiences seem to weigh on us more than the positive ones boost us. Hope requires a level of activeness, many times achieved through gratitude. Expressing gratitude each day for the blessings we enjoy can lead us back to hope. For many, the losses have been shocking. Reach out to those in grief and help buoy them. Acts of gratitude and empathy will lift your own spirit in the process. Your family and colleagues will appreciate that you did too.

With gratitude,

Steve

Break the Monotony: Become an FAV Member

Break the Monotony: Become an FAV Member

FAV Colleagues,

Are you going stir crazy in your home, sheltering in place? When I was in combat, which seems to be the terminology that politicians on the left and right are using to speak about the pandemic, soldiers found it hard to see daily progress. Each day seemed repetitious with boring tasks interrupted by crises or high octane missions like combat patrols in dangerous areas. Some people may feel that way. Maybe a trip to the grocery store heightens anxiety. Maybe your daily routine seems overly repetitive to the point that so many Zoom meetings can’t solve.

FAV recently introduced a new coffee talk program, Digital Detox, that explores how we are all addicted to technology, many times without our knowledge. Tech firms have used complex neuroscience to engineer addictive qualities into the tools we use in everyday life, whether iPhones, laptops, tablets or even our automobiles. Learn more about the pervasive addictive qualities of technology and how to leverage it for good while minimizing the unhealthy aspects in our lives.

While you’re at it, let FAV help break up the monotony by inspiring you and others to make a difference in your community. Citizenship is not a spectator sport. Become a member during our June membership drive and help us bring programming like Digital Detox to others. Sign up for monthly automatic donations at $10/month or greater, and we’ll send you our new FAV T-shirt. Learn more at https://firstamendmentvoice.org/help-others-findtheirvoice/

Donate here!

Steve & the FAV Team

April 2020 Newsletter: Virtual Symposium Announced!

April 2020 Newsletter: Virtual Symposium Announced!

Dear FAV members & supporters,

Covid-19 has stressed the country and continues to expose divisions within our society, where even public health issues become politicized. Elected officials should attempt to balance civic liberties while ensuring the public good with healthy practices. While health considerations should always be a top priority, the costs of an economic recession should be weighed against the future possible health consequences of over 20 million people out of work. Those consequences range from potential homelessness, depression and suicide, with the possibility of further stressing our health care system. Military strategists refer to these types of challenges as wicked problems, where there are no good options. Policymakers search for the least bad alternative. Let’s pray that our elected officials, first responders, healthcare workers, and everyone impacted by the current challenge can maintain the emotional stamina to do what it takes to beat the virus.

As a result of current virus restrictions, FAV has moved all programming to the virtual domain. This includes our National Symposium in September. We have rescheduled the National Constitution Center for the next in-person Symposium in 2021 in Philadelphia. We hosted a virtual Town Hall event last month for faith leaders to share best practices given current restrictions. We plan to continue virtual programming for coffee talks and difficult conversations workshops, hosting one for the Pacific Council on International Policy next month and another for Vale United Methodist Church. If your organization would like to explore sponsoring a program, please reach out to info@firstamendmentvoice.org and we will set you up.

Lastly, FAV earned the Silver Seal of Transparency from GuideStar last month. We are on our way to Gold soon, continuing our prioritization to be outstanding stewards of sponsor and donor contributions. Thank you for all of your support. Please stay safe and healthy! Feel free to reach out any time.

Steve & the FAV Team

January 2020 Newsletter

January 2020 Newsletter

FAV Members,

The year 2019 brought us many surprises and blessings. FAV earned 501c3 status and quickly gained the Bronze seal of transparency with Guidestar. We have a plan to get Silver and Gold prior to this year’s Symposium in September. We doubled the size of our board of directors bringing on Lawrence Rosenberg, a senior partner with Jones Day who has litigated First Amendment issues in front of the Supreme Court, Chelsea Langston Bombino, Director of the Sacred Sector, a lawyer and new Mom, and Stan Ellis, who brings two decades of financial management experience in the nonprofit sector. FAV is extremely blessed to have these talented individuals added to our founding team and look forward to the amazing work we will do together in the future.

As last year brought great change, 2020 promises much. We start by bidding farewell to Naomi Yakawich, who has been our stalwart communications professional keeping you informed about the many things going on with FAV. Congratulations to Naomi for a recent promotion and marriage! We look forward to seeing her continue great things in her new capacity. We will also celebrate our Fifth Annual National Symposium in 2020, bringing the program back to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. We are excited to make speaker announcements and also let you know about the Edward D. Lowry Memorial Award for Citizenship that will be presented for the first time at the Symposium. Ed lived a life of service as an active citizen in his community, exemplifying the mantra that “Citizenship is not a spectator sport.” We look forward to honoring his life and helping inspire others to live up to the standards that Ed set for civic engagement.

Lastly, we continue our long range strategic planning process, FAV 2025. We have almost concluded the first phase and will keep you updated as the trajectory comes together. Look for more updates in the future including during our upcoming “Delegate’s Call” on January 30th. All FAV Delegates, Board, Advisors and Paid Members are invited as a benefit of their membership and contributions to raising the level of civic dialogue and helping inspire citizens to engage on issues of importance in their communities. We are extremely grateful to the support of all members who care about their communities and want to engage in constructive ways to bridge divides and continue progress through effective understanding and employment of First Amendment freedoms. Whatever your community issues, an effective grasp of the First Amendment will help you make progress.

With Gratitude, Steve & the FAV Team

Organizational Partner Spotlight

FAV is grateful to the Museum of the Bible for providing a VIP tour for FAV Friends & Family in December at no costs. Thanks to the work of the late Ed Lowry, FAV Strategic Advisor and Delegate, The Museum of the Bible hosted a dozen FAV members and family for a wonderful tour. Would you like to get a chance to see the museum? Check out the upcoming events section below for great programming coming up.

Upcoming Events

January 30 – delegate and member videoteleconference, FAV 2025, RSVP to Heather, time 8pm EST/ 5pm PST [by invitation for paid FAV members and delegates]

February 8 – Balm of Gilead, Museum of the Bible, D.C. register here

February 29 – Difficult Conversations Workshop, San Clemente, CA register here

May 12 – Dr. Cornell West, Museum of the Bible, D.C. Save the date! More info on museum website.

September 25-26 – fifth annual National Symposium, Philadelphia, National Constitution Center

November 2019 Newsletter

November 2019 Newsletter

FAV Faithful,

As we approach #GivingTuesday and the final month of 2019, I would like to remind you why it is so important we lead the charge to protect the space for civil disagreement and other first amendment freedoms. These are not esoteric ideas that the Founding Fathers developed over two hundred years ago with no contemporary relevance. Every day, we see attacks against religious freedom, freedom of the press, and free expression. I want to take a moment to highlight a current issue trending around the world that has a significant impact on the United States if we sit on the sidelines and do nothing.

Repressive regimes in other countries routinely suppress the free expression of their people. You might want to wash your hands of that problem if you believe that it is up to the people to resolve their own challenges. Many agree with that position. However, what should you do when a foreign power attempts to limit freedom of expression here in the United States? If you are like me, a passionate advocate of the principles embodied within the Constitution, then you might want to challenge foreign government interference in our democratic way of life.

You may recall the recent efforts by the Chinese government to modify the NBA’s statements about the protests in Hong Kong. This is not new for other countries to attempt to limit American free expression by employing corporate interests. In 1980 the government of Saudi Arabia attempted to prevent a British documentary, Death of a Princess, from being aired on PBS. Fortunately, most PBS stations aired the program despite Exxon’s attempts to sway their decision. Exxon had sponsored PBS’ Masterpiece Theater since 1971 and was the largest corporate sponsor at the time and would go on to be the largest corporate sponsor in the history of public television, contributing over $250 million over 32 years. Thus, you could see that the firm might be able to sway PBS’ decision on whether to air a film that could impact business interests. PBS, to their credit, aired the documentary at the time. However, if you haven’t ever seen the film, you might be surprised to find that you also missed the 25th anniversary of its showing in 2005 and can no longer watch it. It has aired twice in the U.S. and only once in Britain, where similar corporate interests attempted to prevent the showing on British television.

Saudi has not limited attempts to stifle free expression to America. They are most aggressive against Saudi citizens routinely bullying them on social media and going so far as to cut Jamal Khashoggi into little pieces in their embassy in Turkey, causing an international outcry. They have also attempted to pressure Qatar to shut down Al Jazeera, a dominant news organization in the Middle East.

Of course, these infringements on basic freedoms are not new. We see examples across the world like currently in Iraq, which is an assault on free assembly and expression. Snipers, allegedly trained by Iran, have consistently been targeting protesters who are simply calling attention to a gross lack of possibilities for jobs and basic services while government leaders enjoy the comforts of luxury all provided by oil wealth. We see less egregious cases in the United States with conservative college students feeling constrained in their ability to voice their opinions or journalists fearing for their own safety from overzealous Trump supporters. While the scale and effectiveness of the domestic attacks may seem minor to some, we cannot allow the erosion of essential freedoms, fundamental human rights, to be walked back. Only U.S. citizens can defend the freedoms. Take a stand today and help FAV advocate and educate on the issues.

With much gratitude,

Steve & the FAV Team

In the News

How 3 Teachers Took on the Civics Gap—NEA Today—this is a great story on teaching civics in the classroom and how innovative teachers can make a difference in student learning.

Thank you to special advisor, Ed Lowry, who submitted this article that describes attributes for civic engagement: Fast Times at Capitalism High — What Young People Need to Thrive – InsideSources

Studies Released: Tools to fight disinformation

From RAND—People have access to more information than ever before. But it can still be hard to distinguish accurate information from low-quality or false content. That’s why RAND created a database of tools aimed at fighting the spread of disinformation online. These include websites run by human fact-checkers, apps that use artificial intelligence to detect bots, and games that teach players how to spot disinformation. The database is part of our Countering Truth Decay initiative, which aims to restore the role of facts and analysis in American public life.Explore the database »

Giving Tuesday

We have made tremendous strides this year in creating forums to allow for civil discourse and understanding around first amendment freedoms. Help us continue to make a difference in our diverse communities across the nation.

$1,000 offers … covers two coffee talks, two VIP tickets, recognition at reception

            $500 offers … sustaining member covers the cost of one local coffee talk, free VIP ticket

            $250 offers … allows purchase of campus advocacy kit – list materials

            $100 offers … support local delegate kit – business cards, other promotional materials

            $50 offers … allows free student or veteran attendance at Symposium

            $25 offers … basic membership includes special invites & discounts at Symposium

            Can’t donate today? – sign up for our free newsletter to learn more about FAV impact

FAV is proud to announce we achieved the Bronze Seal of Transparency from Guidestar already this year. Please consider contributing to FAV as part of your end of year giving.

Upcoming Events

Coming up in DC – 5 December, Times Talks – Women of the 116th Congress

This bi-partisan discussion takes place at the Newseum. Tickets cost $25, get them HERE 

San Clemente, CA – January 15 in combination with the i5 Freedom Network. “Should Prostitution Be Legal?”

San Clemente, CA – February 29, Difficult Conversations Workshop – Save the Date

October 2019 Newsletter

October 2019 Newsletter

Community Leaders,

Do you sometimes wonder if the work you’re doing is having the impact you hope for? In early September the FAV team and I wrestled with pulling together the people and details for the National Symposium in Washington, D.C. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I read a note via email from a name I didn’t recognize.

Benedict Cosgrove from New York City

Greetings from Brooklyn —

I just wanted to send a quick note, outside of the LinkedIn ecosystem, to express my admiration for what you and your colleagues are working toward with First Amendment Voice — and also to offer my thanks.

For the past few years, frustrated with what I’ve seen happening in Washington DC, I’ve contributed a number of opinion pieces to media outlets in the U.S. and abroad. Writing those pieces was certainly cathartic — but it’s also become clear that I’ve sort of been shouting in a bubble.

The emphasis on dialog and civil debate that FAV and similar orgs espouse hits home. I don’t disavow the arguments I’ve made in those op-eds — not all of them, anyway — but engaging with others, rather than voicing disgust and (yes) anger, does seem a far more rational way to go about embracing the responsibilities of citizenship.

So — thank you for the work you’re doing in this space, and for the straightforward, compelling questions you’ve posed on LinkedIn. They’ve gotten me thinking — rather than simply ranting.

And good luck with the symposium later this month.

With respect,

Ben

The audience listens during the 2019 Symposium as Steve Miska describes the impact Ben’s message had on him

Needless to say, Ben’s note lifted my morale instantly. I knew that FAV programming impacted people when they attended one of our events. What I struggled with was whether we were reaching people through other mediums like LinkedIn. Subsequently, Ben and I have spoken on the phone and intend to explore the impact of FAV messaging in the next episode of FAV’s podcast, Find Your Voice. Look for this new episode in the coming days. If you haven’t listened in before, check out some of our previous episodes here.

Are there people in your life who might benefit from the good news stories we share? Please recommend our free newsletter to friends and family. FAV is growing, but we depend on you to find the next person in need of toning down the rhetoric and seeking understanding within your community. Sign up here

With Gratitude,

Steve & the FAV Team 

Symposium photo gallery – Check out photos from our recent Symposium in Washington, D.C. Be sure not to miss next year’s event in Philadelphia. 

In the News

Civics in the Classroom: This is a story about a high school teacher going above and beyond to teach civics in the classroom based on current events. FAV encourages leaders at all levels: community, classroom, family to engage younger generations in the basics of civic education, especially as it relates to first amendment freedoms.

 Supporting Local News: One of the issues attendees at coffee talk programs hear about is the importance of local news organizations in providing transparency over local government. This Knight Foundation initiative is geared to help grow awareness about retaining and improving local news capacity.

Please plug: share our newsletter with friends and family. Encourage them to sign up! FAV wants to grow in our ability to inspire citizens.