Robbins: Freedom of speech gets squeezed from both sides

Jeff Robbins
Boston Herald

Excerpt: “When I was a kid, I was shy,” Ira Glasser, the longtime head of the American Civil Liberties Union told a Canton audience last week. It seemed hard to believe. A non-lawyer and proud of it, Glasser led the ACLU from 1978 until 2001. “The first time I had to speak in public,” Glasser said, “was teaching kids calculus. It taught me how to explain complicated subjects to people who were really not interested. All of that ended up being good training for talking to people about the Bill of Rights.”

The right to speak freely occupied much of Glasser’s career. On university campuses, where once administrators wielded their power to block speech about civil rights or ending the war in Vietnam, now self-styled “progressive” students wield theirs to attempt to block speech that they believe deviates from what they have decreed is politically acceptable. First Amendment legend Floyd Abrams has said that the greatest threat to American free speech comes presently not from government but from within academia, principally from “a minority of students.”