Speaking Up: Newseum Institute Celebrates Free Speech Week

Free Speech Week

From Oct. 17 to 23, the Newseum Institute joins organizations across the nation in celebrating Free Speech Week, a non-partisan event that spotlights the importance of free speech in our democracy.

Free Speech Week, now in its 12th year, takes place annually on the third week of October and was created to be inclusive across political and ideological differences. A full list of partner organizations may be found here.

Emphasizing the need for such events that advocate for free expression, the Newseum Institute’s 2016 “State of the First Amendment” survey conducted in May, in partnership with USA TODAY, revealed that 39 percent of Americans could not name a single First Amendment freedom: religion, speech, press, assembly or petition. Notably, the survey also showed that 86 percent of respondents favored “protecting speech,” while just 10 percent favored limits aimed at “protecting people from hearing things that offend them.”

“Our annual ‘State of the First Amendment’ survey shows that far too many of us take our First Amendment freedoms for granted,” said Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute and First Amendment Center. “But freedom seems always to be under challenge, and certainly requires constant defense. Free Speech Week affords us all the chance to stop and consider what our lives would be like without freedom of expression — and the damage that losing free speech would do to our nation and our way of life.”

On Thursday, Oct. 20 at 3 p.m., the Newseum Institute and The Media Institute will co-host a free panel discussion: “Free Speech: Still the ‘American Way’?” Experts will address contemporary issues of free expression and the balance of safety, civility and patriotism, and discuss whether we as a nation still have the same commitment to freedom of speech that America’s founders envisioned.

Panelists include Rodney A. Smolla, award-winning author and First Amendment scholar; Robert Corn-Revere, notable First Amendment attorney; John Watson, lawyer, journalist and American University professor; and John M. Seigenthaler, former NBC, MSNBC and Al Jazeera America news anchor. Jeffrey Herbst, CEO of the Newseum and the Newseum Institute, will moderate the discussion. The event, which will also be live streamed, is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

Have a free speech question? Check out our First Amendment resources!

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