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 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.
I hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July and enjoyed meaningful time with friends and family. This holiday weekend was a time to celebrate the birth of our nation, and more importantly the ideals that helped give birth to our nation. Those founding principles should guide conduct in our daily lives and have tremendous relevancy today. Whether you were camping with friends, at a backyard BBQ or watching fireworks light up the night sky, it was a very special moment – a moment to remember those brave souls who sacrificed all so that we could enjoy our freedom. Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died. As you pause to reflect, I hope you and your loved ones are invigorated with the liberty we must protect and promote.
Mark your calendars! September 15th and 16th in Philadelphia.
Sponsors – would you like to sponsor students to attend the National Symposium in Philadelphia? Let us know. Student registration is only $25. Delegate registration is $79 and all others are $99 before August 15th. After that prices go up.
Spotlight on Partners
Veterans For American Ideals is an initiative that encourages veteran voices to join public policy discussions in a nonpartisan way. See this opportunity to learn more below. You do not need to be a veteran to participate in the webinar.
Countering Hate Speech Webinar
Tuesday, July 11th, 12:00pm ET / 9:00am PT
RSVP here to receive webinar log-in details
This one-hour webinar will provide you with a set of insights about some of the social, psychological, and neurological factors that make it so hard to push back divisive and hateful rhetoric. It will give you tips on how, in the face of some of these challenges, you can deliver messaging to most effectively push back on this negative speech and rhetoric and promote peace and inclusion. After an initial talk by Rachel Brown, author of Defusing Hate: A Strategic Communication Guide to Counteract Dangerous Speech, we will open up for Questions and Answer.
Please forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues you think would appreciate FAV’s work, and of course, enjoy your Fourth of July holiday with family! Subscribe here.
Steven M. Miska
On June 8th, FAV hosted grassroots training that focused on how to engage and recruit others on the issues surrounding the 1st Amendment. Delegates attended an all day training event which included lunch and a special guest appearance by the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Karl Racine – all with a breathtaking view of the Capitol building.
We would like to convey a special “Thank You” to our partners at the Global Peace Foundation, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, Veterans For American Ideals, The Nation’s Mosque, the ADAMS Center, and Human Rights First for their support and commitment to educating others about first amendment freedoms. Also, thank you to partner organizations Heritage Foundation and FIRE each of whom sent a guest speaker. Every agencies’ contributions were extremely meaningful to the training.
Lastly, thank you to all the delegates who participated in the training to learn about freedom of speech on college campuses, religious liberty and member engagement using the ‘Coffee Talk’ model. We would love to spotlight your efforts and hope to hear from you about success stories on starting your own FAV – Coffee Talk programs.
Director, First Amendment Voice
PHOTOS FROM THE TRAINING
Reflecting on Memorial Day, I can’t help but think back to those holidays celebrated in wartime. I want to share some of the themes we discussed when we paused from combat operations to remember our fallen and to reinvigorate the ranks to continue the mission. During the typical Memorial Day Ceremony, we would have a military chaplain provide the spiritual context for the event, offering a prayer. We would have special music and conduct a ceremonial remembrance of the fallen.
In Baghdad, on Memorial Day in 2007, we rang a bell 64 times and read the names of the fallen, both American and Iraqi. I would speak about the meaning of the sacrifices given by the fallen and why it was so important for the remainder of the task force to complete the mission and honor those sacrifices. I would say things like,
“We have already shed tears before tonight over their loss. We come together to celebrate their lives and rededicate ourselves to the mission they began. This service allows us to pause and recalibrate our own energy and sense of purpose to the greater good, so that we leave this gathering refreshed and oriented on principles that guide our daily actions and serve our souls.”
Then I would ask the soldiers to recall Memorial Day Ceremonies and parades from their childhood,
“I want you to close your eyes and imagine that you are back home in New York, Indiana, Kansas, Florida, California, with your family. You are there at the parade with a daughter, niece, cousin, mother, aunt, uncle, brother waving a small flag, watching veterans, aged well beyond fighting years, march in step to a drum in front of horse drawn carriages. Close your eyes and smell the roasted peanuts, cotton candy, the aroma of an American parade. Smell the charcoal in the backyards of homes across the country as burgers cook. Listen to the sounds of children playing, water guns spraying, squealing with delight, not a care in the world. These sounds and smells and images of home are why you stand here today, so that others do not have to. These are only dreams to our Iraqi counterparts, in and out of uniform. But you and I know these dreams. We have lived them. That is why we stand here, protecting the cause of freedom and paying tribute to the sacrifices of those who have gone before us.”
Following the speech, we would solemnly listen to the names of the fallen.
”You will hear many names this evening. The fallen are listed by date of death, irrespective of rank, honoring the tradition of American officers and NCOs serving side by side with the soldiers they lead. They range in rank from Private First Class to full Colonel, and they also include our civilian friends and partners who have fallen with us. Their sacrifice proves what the Soldier has known for time immemorial, that freedom is earned. Those of us gathering at FOB Justice tonight know this truth all too well, as we continue to sacrifice in honor of those who have gone before and in the hope that those standing with us can be free men and women. They can be free of persecution because of religious beliefs, because of their accent, or because of the color of their skin. These names represent some of the finest warriors our nation has to offer and our enduring commitment to the good people of Iraq.”
As citizens of the United States and delegates and members of the First Amendment Voice alliance, I hope these words will inspire you to understand the depth of commitment those in uniform devote to our Constitution and the freedoms we each enjoy. You have a role to play as well. One where you actively exercise your first amendment rights as a citizen. You exercise your freedom of speech, freedom of religion, you support a free press and the right to assemble peaceably and petition the government for grievance. These are rights bestowed by our Creator and fought for by the Founding Fathers. Current and future generations of Americans and our partners continue to fight and bleed for these rights. We, as citizens, owe it to them to understand and exercise those rights. Democracy requires this minimum standard of its citizens. That is the only way we will thrive as a nation. We each carry a small portion of the flame of liberty within us. Help keep it alive through your active participation.
Have a Blessed Memorial Day!
Steven M. Miska
Director, First Amendment Voice