About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for Free Speech: And Why You Should Give a Damn

Greetings from the National Archives’ flagship building in Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s virtual author lecture with Jonathan Zimmerman and Signe Wilkinson, co-authors of Free Speech: And Why You Should Give a Damn.

Before we begin, though, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming programs you can view on our YouTube channel.

On Tuesday, May 18, at 7 p.m., we will host a panel discussion titled “Celebrating the Woman Suffrage Centennial.” Our panelists will discuss the centennial of the 19th Amendment in 2020, the events that were planned across the country, and what we learned during that turbulent year.

And on Wednesday, May 19, at noon, Daniel Carpenter will be with us to talk about his new book, Democracy by Petition. Carpenter examines the transformation of the use of the petition in 19th-century American democracy.

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At the founding of our federal government, the protection of individual rights was written into our Constitution. Spelling out these rights in the Bill of Rights was a necessary step in getting all the states to ratify the new government charter.

First among the amendments was a prohibition of government interference in the people’s freedom of speech. Yet, throughout our history, we have seen tension between the exercise of this right and the urge to curb it.

In words and images, Jonathan Zimmerman and Signe Wilkinson’s new book, Free Speech, celebrates our freedom of speech and points out why we need to be ready to defend it.

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Jonathan Zimmerman is the Judy and Howard Berkowitz Professor in Education and Professor of History of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. A former Peace Corps volunteer and high school teacher, Zimmerman is the author of several books, including histories of the "Little Red Schoolhouse" in the United States and of sex education around the world. He has published more than 400 op-eds and reviews in the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Sun, and other major newspapers and magazines. He taught for 20 years at New York University, where he received its Distinguished Teaching Award in 2008.

Signe Wilkinson has been recognized as one of the nation’s leading cartoonists since 1992, when she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning for her work at the Philadelphia Daily News. She was the first woman to be so honored. She has received four Thomas Nast Awards from the Overseas Press Club and two Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards. Syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group, she was named the Philadelphia Inquirer (& Daily News) editorial cartoonist in 2012. Her work appears regularly in publications around the country and has been included in several books.

Our moderator for today’s conversation is Nadine Strossen, an American civil liberties activist who has written, taught, and advocated extensively in the areas of constitutional law and civil liberties. From 1991 to 2008, she served as President of the American Civil Liberties Union, the first woman to head the nation’s largest and oldest civil liberties organization. Professor Strossen is currently a member of the ACLU’s National Advisory Council, as well as the Advisory Boards of Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Heterodox Academy, and the National Coalition Against Censorship.

Now let’s hear from Jonathan Zimmerman, Signe Wilkinson, and Nadine Strossen. Thank you for joining us today.