April 27, 2009

Berry College kicks of Liberty Tree Week@Berry by planting a large Liberty Tree elm in front of Evans Hall on April 23, 2009. (Courtesy Berry College)

A Tree Grows on Campus

In 1765, near historic Boston Common, a 119-year-old elm tree became a gathering site for early American patriots who increasingly voiced the need for a new nation founded on liberty. The Liberty Tree, as the elm was called, was a rallying point for dissent against British rule and symbolized freedom and unity in the American colonies.

In 2009, the Liberty Tree Initiative honors that tradition by building awareness of the First Amendment’s five freedoms through events and speakers at colleges across the country. The program, which includes a coalition of journalists, educators and other First Amendment supporters, was founded in partnership with the American Society of News Editors, with help and support from the McCormick Foundation, the Knight Foundation and the First Amendment Center, an affiliate of the Newseum.

The 2009 Liberty Tree Initiative program began this week at Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga. The college has declared April 23 to 30 Liberty Tree Week and is featuring a wide range of programming, including music, lectures and an exhibit of banned books.

Among the events are an evening of banned music, a presentation on the Gutenberg Bible by master bookbinder Tim Yancey and a discussion about religious expression and freedom of information led by Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center.

"We’re very honored to have been granted the first Liberty Tree grant of 2009," said Brian Carroll, associate professor of journalism at Berry College. "I feel like we’ve been given $5,000 to show the First Amendment a really good time here at Berry, and that’s exactly what we’re planning to do.

"We also hope to increase awareness and appreciation of the First Amendment here on campus and in our community, and to do it in ways that engage and even entertain."

Ken Paulson, president and chief operating officer of the Freedom Forum, Newseum and Diversity Institute, was one of the driving forces behind the Liberty Tree Initiative through his affiliations with ASNE and the First Amendment Center.

"The Liberty Tree Initiative is a remarkable partnership that taps into the energy of the First Amendment and the insights of experts, academic leaders, artists, musicians and journalists across this country," Paulson said.

Paulson will deliver the keynote address, "Rebooting America: The First Amendment and a New Generation," at Berry College at the conclusion of Liberty Tree Week.

Funding for additional Liberty Tree Campus Initiative grants is available. For information, contact Sandra Chance at schance@jou.ufl.edu or 352/392-2273.

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