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,


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.

August 2019 Newsletter

August 2019 Newsletter

Dear FAV Advocates,

One of my former students from West Point recently reminded me that I taught the rule of LGOPs to the class. LGOPs, an acronym from the airborne infantry community, stands for Little Groups of Paratroopers. In World War II, during airborne drops, troops would be scattered across the French or Italian countryside. They would quickly band together and begin wreaking havoc on the enemy forces, cutting communication lines, disabling tanks, and conducting ambushes. This ability came from the American culture of inspiring soldiers to take the initiative.

It reminds me of the power of small groups of people in our civic life. A determined group of citizens can band together to affect change in their community. It just takes a few and reminds me of one of my favorite quotes of all time, from Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Citizenship is not a spectator sport. Join the little groups of people in your community and enjoy the impact of serving a cause greater than yourself.

Citizenship is not a spectator sport! If you like our newsletter, please share with a friend!


Symposium Update

FAV continues to work on creating an exciting experience for our fourth annual National Symposium. We will explore Polarization in the Public Square. Thank you to all who have already registered. We only have a few VIP level tickets remaining. If you would like to join us on Capitol Hill Friday evening, September 20th, for a private tour and reception of the Capitol Building, get your ticket before August 30th. We will not be able to guarantee VIP tickets after that. You’ll get the chance to meet many of the speakers for the Symposium, hear from sponsors, and view the artwork inside the historic building.

Buy one, get one free! Are you a previous Symposium attendee? Buy a ticket before August 30th and bring a guest free.

Register yourself at the link and email to get your guest registered.

Are you traveling and need a hotel room for the Symposium? Don’t wait! We only have a few rooms in our 50% off discount block at the Marriott. Click on the link below to book a room.

Hotel Accommodations:

Washington Marriott at Metro Center

775 12th Street NW Washington, District of Columbia 20005

We have secured a great group rate of $179/night plus taxes. To make your reservation just click or copy and paste this link:

In the News

Facebook, Twitter say China ran disinformation against Hong Kong protesters: Read More

From the Freedom Forum Institute at the Newseum. Katharine Kosin and Kirsti Kenneth reflect on the renewed public discussion of potential consequences of conspiracy theories, the presence of places they live on the internet and ways to stop the spread of this damaging misinformation: Read More 

San Francisco School Board May Save Controversial George Washington Mural – The New York Times: Read More

Upcoming Events

Symposium 2019, September 20-21st, Washington, D.C.

Symposium 2020, September 18-19th, Philadelphia

July 2019 Newsletter

July 2019 Newsletter

Dear FAV Advocates,

Let’s hear from a veteran who sheds his military uniform and looks for ways to keep serving in his community in Georgia.

Hello Everyone,

I just recently joined the First Amendment Voice (FAV) team as the South Eastern Region Delegate. It is with great excitement that I finally get to introduce myself to a great network of colleagues and fellow civil servants. Currently, I’m a Junior Sociology student at Columbus State University. I’m also a husband and father of two children living in the great State of Georgia. Before starting my post-secondary education, I was enlisted in the Army for 8 years and served three combat tours as an Infantryman.

While transitioning from the military, I was in search of a new mission that would also embody some of the important values that I wholeheartedly supported and fought for while enlisted. Most important of those were duty and selfless service. When I came across First Amendment Voice in its earlier stage with Executive Director Steve Miska, it was during the 2016 election. It was around this time, I resolved to bring unity to my community and to dedicate my life towards a greater good.

During this time, I developed a plan through prayer, to continue my duty and selfless service by seeking out local, state, and federal civil service opportunities while continuing my education.  I completed a fellowship with The Mission Continues nonprofit organization, and this last spring, I completed an internship with the Georgia General Assembly.   As I was building networks and growing my experience, I was also preparing myself for federal level service. As an advocate for FAV, it was easy for me to begin serving as a delegate.

I look forward to growing the organization and partnerships.  First up: get an on-campus club started early fall. FAV is on the agenda, and I have the support of multiple faculty members to include the Sociology Department Chair. I have also been approved to start on-campus engagements and look forward to creating a campus kit that can further help future colleges across the country as our organization grows in membership and support.

Again, it is with great excitement that I get to be a part of FAV, and that I have the honor to work surrounded by so many like-minded and passion driven people. I look forward to meeting all at the FAV National Symposium in the Fall!


Dylan S. Fessler

Delegate FAV

Citizenship is not a spectator sport! If you like our newsletter, please share with a friend!



We are very excited to bring the #FindYourVoice podcast to our audience. If you don’t have time to read the email or prefer to learn more during your morning commute, download our podcast. We take the inspirational stories from the monthly newsletter and provide more context.

In the News

Quiz: Can You Answer the Hardest Citizenship Test Questions? – The New York Times

Written by a Republican strategist, Claire Hardwick. This is a nice story about the importance of talking to others with differing opinions. 

Democrats and Republicans are very bad at guessing each other’s beliefs – The Washington Post

Upcoming Events

Delegate Coffee Talk, August 7th, 8 pm EST, videoconference (delegates & paid members only)

Symposium 2019, September 20-21st, Washington, D.C.

Symposium 2020, September 18-19th, Philadelphia

June 2019 Newsletter

June 2019 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

Many of you may have noticed we kicked off a membership drive last week. Please consider becoming a paid member to help us bring FAV programming to those who lack the resources or access. We are grateful to a generous donor who provided matching donations to help incentivize our campaign. Double your impact now due to the matching donations. More details below. Paid membership comes with exclusive benefits and the knowledge you are helping FAV reach those who may not feel they have a voice in their communities.

This month’s good news story features a community partner, the i5 Freedom Network. The Executive Director, Brenda Wells, started the organization to make an impact against human trafficking. She is currently collaborating with FAV to hold a community forum in San Clemente to raise awareness about illicit massage parlors and to pass a city ordinance to make it more difficult for those establishments to open up. Culling best practices from other nearby cities, Brenda proposed measures that would significantly strengthen the current ordinance. By reviewing websites that feature illicit establishments in town, Brenda assessed that almost one dozen illegitimate establishments operate in San Clemente. These are usually run by organized crime. Most people are unaware of this going on. The i5/FAV public forum will feature speakers to educate the public, including from law enforcement, legitimate massage establishments, city officials, and a survivor of massage parlor trafficking.

The goals of the public panel discussion are twofold: 1) gain momentum to pass a significantly strengthened massage parlor ordinance and 2) raise public awareness on the importance of individuals lending their voice to important community conversations. Brenda is a heroine in the local community, but more importantly, will inspire average citizens to get involved in making their city safer and preventing trafficking from occurring in San Clemente. First Amendment Voice is proud to partner with Brenda and the i5 Freedom Network.

Citizenship is not a spectator sport! If you like our newsletter, please share with a friend!



June Membership Drive

Please consider supporting FAV efforts to push back against fear and apathy and inspire people to #FindTheirVoice and contribute to public discourse. Remember Gary’s story from the April newsletter? If you didn’t get a chance to read it, click the link. Story’s like Gary starting an Instagram contest to promote understanding about Unity and Division in our communities are why FAV exists. Basic membership costs just $25/ year and offers an automatic $25 discount on Symposium registration, in addition to exclusive benefits like our national coffee talk live videoconferences.

Would you like to help others #FindTheirVoice as well as enjoy the benefits of unique FAV programming? Consider becoming a Sustaining member at either the $1,000 or $500 level. Sustaining members get an invitation to our VIP tour of the Capitol Building the evening before the National Symposium in Washington, D.C.


Thanks to the generosity of a FAV donor, we have two $5,000 matching grants. One to help stimulate the membership drive and the other to challenge $1,000 donors to step up and support FAV efforts to extend our programming to those who might not have the resources to attend without assistance. FAV routinely convenes very diverse audiences who get the opportunity to interact with each other in enriching environments. Please help us achieve our goal. Any level of contribution helps us reach the $5,000 mark. Give here 

In The News

A report from the Hudson Institute has interesting statistics on the state of anti-Semitism in the U.S. More details here.

This is a fascinating piece about young people who watched YouTube content, both far right and left, and how it can sway beliefs. It’s a fascinating look at one young man’s journey. Read more.

Save the Date

4th Annual National Symposium September 20-21 – the theme is “Polarization.” Paid members get an invitation to an exclusive VIP tour of the Capitol Building after hours. Spaces are limited, so register soon. Sustaining level donors at the $1,000 level get two tickets to the VIP tour while $500 level donors get one ticket. Guarantee that you get the experience to explore polarization in our society.

April 2019 Newsletter

April 2019 Newsletter

Back in September at the 3rd Annual First Amendment Voice National Symposium in Philadelphia, I met Gary Ell. Gary got inspired during our programming and wanted to get involved. He wasn’t sure how, but after some thought, he had an idea. Here is the story in his own words:

The world has become vehemently divided. Nearly every segment of society has been afflicted through division. We are divided by culture, gender, education, race, religion and political polarization that hinders governance. The 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections created a funnel that has encapsulated the USA and left me feeling divided, exhausted and fearful. As a Professional Photojournalist “sometimes” covering politics, my social media accounts were targeted and trolled. I shared an image on Facebook of my 10 y/o daughter holding a Hillary sign during the 2016 Democratic National Convention. She was so excited to attend the event and show her support of “Girl Power” as many young girls did. I taught my daughter that she can dream big and achieve great things. She believed in this candidate. The trolls did not! She was lambasted for holding that sign and believing in this female candidate. I was deeply disturbed and disgusted. This was my first-hand account of where society was spiraling.

A fire was ignited when I attended the First Amendment Voice Symposium in Philadelphia, P.A. in September 2018. FAV is a non-profit that serves to invigorate citizens to understand and exercise first amendment rights through a collaborative campaign of education and advocacy. I left the symposium feeling a need to “help” society. As a Photographer and Curator for a popular photography hub on Instagram, I had a voice and a platform. By unifying with six other popular photo hubs, we had a combined following of several million followers. We all were in agreement that we have a responsibility as Artists to address the important issues that are dividing the world and solve them visually. We felt that the theme of Unity/Division could help heal a deeply divided society, so we launched the challenge in January 2019.

What did we learn?
The submissions addressed the divisions more than the unity and that was ok. The challenge was like the current pulse of humanity and we don’t necessarily have the answers. It’s like what people feel right now; divided, alone and afraid. We tapped into something, a need that people feel they have to express. That’s what the challenge was about – Encouraging people to conquer the fear of expression or the feeling that their voice doesn’t matter.

Gary exemplifies the effect we try to have with FAV programming. We seek speakers and community leaders who inspire us all to #FindOurVoice and contribute to the public conversation, whether through art, like Gary, or by the multitude of other ways to contribute – the school board, PTA, university, church, synagogue, mosque, city council meeting, and other community organizations. We each have individual talents and a unique “voice.” Our form of government requires citizen participation. If you would like to learn more and feel inspired by Gary’s effort, join FAV in Washington, D.C. this September. Our 4th Annual National Symposium will feature the five winning submissions from Gary’s Instagram contest. Gary will provide an overview of the contest and some of the photographers will attend in person.

Citizenship is not a spectator sport! If you like our newsletter, please share with a friend!


Coffee Talk Shout-out

Thank you to everyone from Coronado and San Clemente Coffee Talks who recently signed up for our newsletter. We plan to continue to provide relevant programming that interests community members. We will offer national-level videoconference Coffee Talks in the future to paid members and delegates who would like to learn how to start a coffee talk program in their communities.

In The News

Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, wrote the following op-ed in the New York Times. Recent coffee talk attendees have enjoyed discussion of the ideas he presents. Enjoy! READ NOW

Mark Your Calendars

May 10th — Global LA Summit w/ Pacific Council on International Policy

May 11th — Difficult Conversations workshop w/ Kern Beare, LA

September 13-14th — the 4th Annual FAV National Symposium, Washington, D.C.