Words of Wisdom: Great Thinkers on Why Free Speech Is Vital

Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass, 1860 speech

“No right was deemed by the fathers of the Government more sacred than the right of speech. . . the great moral renovator of society and government.  . . .  Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thought and… more

President Obama
President Barack Obama, September 2015, comments at high school town hall meeting in Des Moines, Iowa

“The purpose of college is not just... to transmit skills. It’s also to widen your horizons, to make you a better citizen, to help you to evaluate… more

George Washington
George Washington, 1783

“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

Václav Havel, 2000
Václav Havel, 2000

"Courage in the public sphere means that one is to go against majority opinion (at the same time risking losing one's position) in the name of the truth."

John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill, On Freedom, 1859

“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the… more

Ira Glasser
Ira Glasser, 2020 interview

“[A]fter [a] panel discussion [at a prestigious law school], person after person got up, including some of the younger professors, to assert that their goals of social justice for blacks, for women, for… more

Nadine Strossen
Nadine Strossen, former ACLU president, 2018

“In the long run, an open airing of discriminatory ideas, and an ensuing debate about them, may well be more effective in curbing them than censorship would be.”

United States Constitution, first amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people… more

Henry Steele Commager
Henry Steele Commager, 1954

“The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion. In the long run it will create a generation incapable of appreciating the… more

Donald Downs
Donald Downs, 2020

“Punishing evil or bad thoughts amounts to thought control, which is the quintessential First Amendment sin and a hallmark of an authoritarian or totalitarian state. It is no accident that polities that coerce their vision of a new and… more

Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall, Police Dept. of City of Chicago v. Mosley (1972)

“The First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.”

William Brennan
Justice William Brennan, Keyishian v. Board of Regents (1967)

“[A]cademic freedom... is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern of the … more

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 2012 interview

"A constitution, as important as it is, will mean nothing unless the people are yearning for liberty and freedom.”

Justice Louis Brandeis
Justice Louis Brandeis, concurring opinion in Whitney v. California, 1927

“If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced… more

Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin, 1722

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”

John Lewis
John Lewis, 2017

“Without freedom of speech and the right to dissent, the civil rights movement would have been a bird without wings.”

Jonathan Rauch
Jonathan Rauch, 2016

“The greatest idea in the history of human civilization is the idea that we are better off, personally and as a society, if we not only tolerate but actively protect speech and thought that is wrong-headed, offensive, bigoted, seditious,… more

Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie, 1990

“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”

Jonathan Rauch
Jonathan Rauch, 2013

“History shows that the more open the intellectual environment, the better minorities will do.... [G]ay people know we owe our progress to freedom of speech and freedom of thought.... The best society for minorities is not the society… more

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We read of tortures in jails with electric devices, suicides among prisoners, forced confessions, while in the outside community ruthless persecution of editors, religious leaders, and political opponents suppress free speech—and a… more

George Orwell
George Orwell, 1945; Preface to Animal Farm

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

James Madison
James Madison, 1788 speech

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations."

Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass, 1860

"Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thought and opinions has ceased to exist."

Margaret Chase Smith
Margaret Chase Smith, 1950 speech against McCarthyism

"The right to criticize; the right to hold unpopular beliefs; the right to protest; the right of independent thought. The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation… more

Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt, The Promise of Politics, written in latter half of 1950s

“If someone wants to see and experience the world as it ‘really’ is, he can do so only by understanding it as something that is shared by many people, lies between them, separates them,… more

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Five college students speak out: We’re fed up with campus ‘wokeness’

Rikki Schlott, New York Post

In recent years, college campuses have become increasingly radical, illiberal, and intolerant of dissenting opinions. Students, too scared to voice their true thoughts and feelings, often conform. They fear they will face ridicule or, worse, total exclusion via “cancel culture.” But a few brave students are fighting against the tide, including these five, who all come from different backgrounds but are united in their desire for a true liberal arts education, where all ideas are shared and respected. They told The Post why they refuse to be silenced.

Excerpt: I was relatively apolitical before attending college because my ballet training at the Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia was from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, so I never had the time to engage in politics. When I entered university, however, I was genuinely shocked by the pervasiveness of wokeness on campus. Our freshman orientation mandated attendance at what were essentially indoctrination sessions. The “SaferSexpo,” for example, gave out condoms and sex toys to students and informed us where we could obtain abortion pills. I felt uncomfortable discussing intimacy and sex with other freshmen I had just met, and, as a Catholic, I was disappointed that a more conservative approach to sexuality was fully ignored. But, as a brand-new arrival on campus, I chose not to say anything.

ABIGAIL ANTHONY, Princeton University; 21; Major, Politics; Junior; Home: moved frequently

Click here for link to full article

See also https://video.foxnews.com/v/6292080402001#sp=show-clips

Latest News and Commentary


January 22, 2022
By Princeton Professor Keith Whittington, in podcast interview by Brown Professor Glenn Loury

Below is a link to a CNN interview of Keith Whittington, who chairs the Academic Freedom Alliance, by Michael Smerconish of CNN over a tenure dispute involving widespread outrage about allegedly racist comments by Penn Law Professor Amy Wax. She spoke in a podcast interview by Brown University Professor Glenn Loury, generating widespread outrage. Now Penn Law Dean Theodore Ruger has started a process that could threaten her tenure. Whittington deplores Wax’s statements as “repugnant” and “wrong as a policy matter, wrong as a moral matter,” but says that tenured professors should not be punished for expressing their political views outside the classroom.

January 19, 2022
By Andrew Somerville
The Daily Princetonian

Excerpt: Responding to complaints by members of the Princeton Open Campus Coalition (POCC), University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 defended a memo sent by Dean of the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) Amaney Jamal.

The memo, addressed to members of the SPIA community, came in response to the not-guilty verdict of Kyle Rittenhouse on Nov. 19, 2021, the day of the verdict. In an email to The Daily Princetonian, Eisgruber wrote that it is sometimes incumbent upon administrators to speak up on controversial issues. The POCC letter argued that Jamal’s statement violated institutional neutrality by using “informal institutional behavior” to threaten free expression and lively discourse. The letter also argued that the principle of institutional neutrality itself restricts, or ought to restrict, University officials from speaking in their formal capacities on controversial issues.

January 11, 2022
By Myles J. McKnight and Abigail Y. Anthony
PFS Original Content

The following letter was addressed to several University officials, including those who lead the offices which are co-sponsoring a January 19th panel on "Race, Speech, and the University."

Excerpt: First, let us convey our gratitude for organizing an impressive panel of speakers to address free speech, racial justice, and the university. Whereas figures like Nikole Hannah-Jones have been shunned elsewhere, Princeton has yet again proven itself the welcoming host of voices deemed too unorthodox for some universities to sponsor. . . .

Still, the University’s mission can only be realized if the institution is committed to the several conditions necessary for the flourishing of a truth-seeking environment. The University’s responsibility in this regard goes beyond a simple duty to refrain from “canceling” speakers. In fact, the University bears a duty to actively promote open, honest, and robust dialogue. . . .

We therefore express our disappointment at the sparsity of ideological diversity on the panel you have assembled. It is no secret that each of the panelists you are hosting hails from roughly the same, leftist school of thought on issues of speech and race.

January 10, 2022
By Keith E. Whittington
The Volokh Conspiracy, Reason Magazine

Excerpt: I'm happy to announce the public launch of a new initiative at Princeton University. The Initiative on Freedom of Thought, Inquiry, and Expression will be under the umbrella of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. I'm grateful to JMP for hosting the initiative, and to Princeton University for giving its blessing to the project (though the initiative will rely on outside funds). I will be directing the Free Speech Initiative along with my colleague, Bernie Haykel.

We expect over time to host seminars, public lectures, conferences, and other programming to promote, explain and defend free speech and academic freedom. Hopefully we can help make a difference locally on the Princeton campus, and we intend to be a resource for students and faculty who have concerns about free speech protections at Princeton.

January 9, 2022
By Adam Credo
Washington Free Beacon

Excerpt: A former Iranian official who is a faculty member at Princeton University recently bragged in an interview about how his hardline government’s death threats against a former top Trump administration official had him and his family "trembling" with fear.

"I went to America and an American told me that Brian Hook’s wife can’t sleep, she cries and trembles, she told Brian, ‘They’ll kill you,’ since Hook was a partner in the death of Haj Qassem [Soleimani], that’s how much they were trembling," Mousavian said, referring to Iran’s vow to kill Hook for his role in the Trump administration’s drone strike that killed Iranian terror leader Soleimani two years ago. Mousavian’s comments were made in a documentary produced and released this month by a company tied to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps titled 72 hours. His Farsi language remarks were independently translated for the Washington Free Beacon.

National and International

January 20, 2022
By Stephen Casper, Jay Smith and Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: The moral panic sweeping the country about the freedom of students to express themselves on university campuses is on point—just not in the way you think. While some people take aim at the “cancel culture” that they argue is rampant in higher education institutions, for a large contingent of students—those whom the National Collegiate Athletics Association and institutions have branded “student athletes”—the absence of academic freedom is a product of design.

Whether it is academic clustering that funnels athletes into classes and majors perceived to be less arduous, surveillance systems that monitor athlete movements in and out of the classroom, practice demands that dictate course schedules, television commitments that take players out of classes, or team rules that limit what athletes are permitted to tell the world about their experiences, students who are athletes have little choice but to accept profound violations of their academic freedom.

January 20, 2022
By Jeff Zeman
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Excerpt: Bias Response Teams (BRTs) proliferated in recent years on college and university campuses. FIRE’s research demonstrates that, where deployed, BRTs chill student speech across the political spectrum. Using the anti-terrorism slogan “See Something, Say Something!,” Virginia Tech’s Bias Intervention and Response Team (BIRT) does something particularly egregious: it acknowledges that certain speech is protected and thus not subject to discipline, then promises to intervene anyway.

In challenges brought by the organization Speech First, the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fifth and Sixth Circuits recently held that similar BRTs objectively chill student expression. However, in September, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia denied Speech First’s motion to prevent Virginia Tech from enforcing its bias response procedure, among other policies that infringe students’ freedom of expression. On Tuesday, FIRE filed an amicus curiae brief in Speech First v. Sands, in support of Speech First’s appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

January 19, 2022
By Zach Greenberg
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Excerpt: After its student government denied a student group the benefits of university recognition, on the absurd and infantilizing basis that the group’s open discussion format might mean that “the conversation might very easily devolve” and cause “harm,” Emory University’s administration has now decided to refuse to recognize any new student group for the foreseeable future. Faced with the opportunity to uphold its commitment to free speech, Emory chose instead to betray this commitment and violate its students’ expressive rights.

The Emory University School of Law Student Bar Association first rejected the Emory Free Speech Forum’s application for university recognition in October 2021. Last fall, the Student Bar Association, the student leaders charged with recognizing groups on behalf of the law school, refused to recognize the group because it supposed that open discussions might lead to “harm,” as the discussions — among law students — might involve controversial topics.

January 19, 2022
By Eugene Volokh
The Volokh Conspiracy, Reason Magazine

From Jackson v. Wright, decided yesterday by Judge Amos Mazzant (E.D. Tex.):

This case stems from the suppression of academic scholarship at the University of North Texas …. UNT is a public institution that hales itself as an academy through which students and faculty may, among other things, "publish … and/or display their scholarship freely as appropriate to their respective UNT-assigned roles and responsibilities.”

Plaintiff's area of expertise became a topic of controversy in November 2019 at a convention of the Society for Music Theory. Philip Ewell, a Black professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York, delivered for the Society a plenary address titled "Music Theory's White Racial Frame." As a lead editor of the Journal (of which Schenker is the namesake), Plaintiff organized a symposium and invited music scholars to submit papers in response to Professor Ewell's talk and publication. Plaintiff also suggested Professor Ewell's criticisms of Schenker might themselves have constituted anti-Semitism. The backlash was swift.

January 19, 2022
By Jordan Peterson
National Post

Excerpt: I recently resigned from my position as full tenured professor at the University of Toronto. I am now professor emeritus, and before I turned sixty. I had envisioned teaching and researching at the U of T, full time, until they had to haul my skeleton out of my office. There were many reasons, including the fact that I can now teach many more people and with less interference online. But here’s a few more:

First, my qualified and supremely trained heterosexual white male graduate students (and I’ve had many others, by the way) face a negligible chance of being offered university research positions, despite stellar scientific dossiers. I am academic persona non grata, because of my unacceptable philosophical positions. These facts rendered my job morally untenable. How can I accept prospective researchers and train them in good conscience knowing their employment prospects to be minimal?