Thursday, April 20, 2006

Free Expression Monument

Today was the dedication of the Free Expression Chalkboard on the mall. I was asked to say a few words, and was followed by noted writers George Garrett and John Grisham and musician Boyd Tinsley. Slate columnist Dahlia Lithwick was the keynote speaker - if this is podcast she is definitely worth the time, and if you haven't followed her on Slate, you should. CHS student Brandon Dudley, a member of the Music Resource Center, concluded with an original rap performance - not only was he poised and articulate, but what a great choice of music for the free expression ceremony.

For me, it was one of the few occasions where I thought I could make "political" remarks, so in addition to welcoming everyone and thanking the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, I expressed some (brief) concerns about the freedoms we are losing:

"As my sons move into adulthood and I think about their future, I worry about the steady erosion of freedoms I have always taken for granted.

Some of these freedoms we seem to give up willingly. We allow databases of personal information of our buying habits to be built, in exchange for a savings card at Harris Teeter or to gain frequent flyer miles with our Mastercard. We allow databases of our travel habits in exchange for the convenience of EZPass.

Some freedoms we give up less willingly, as private information is collected every time we visit the hospital, or as we submit to searches of our belongings in order to travel.

And some freedoms are simply being taken away from us, through the Patriot Act, through the imprisonment of members of the press, and more recently, through unauthorized wiretaps."

Afterwards the speakers were given chalk and we had the honor of being the first to write on the chalkboard. I had written down some quotes - a couple from TJ, a couple of others - but somewhat typically for me I left them home. So I wrote what is maybe most important to me at the moment:



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