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  • democracy
By Gillian Gonda, Program Director, Engagement

Free expression is a hallmark of our democracy, and at the Fetzer Institute we believe it is foundational to our vision of a more loving world. We believe that we all have the power to shape a democracy that supports the common good. Working together, we can transcend the labels that polarize us and realize what unites us. We can cultivate sacred connections with our neighbors to help build a shared vision for our communities and our country.

Supporting these beliefs and principles, the Institute has signed on to a year-long sponsorship of a series from The Atlantic called The Speech Wars, which is also sponsored by the Charles Koch Foundation and the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press. The series is showcasing diverse voices and perspectives that explore the current state of free expression in the United States—the history of this freedom within the framework of the Constitution, the current threats to a robust understanding of the concept, and the global and instantaneous nature of communications technologies today.

Free speech, both as a topic (like with The Speech Wars) and as a practice (as in our Practicing Democracy Project), is an important aspect of Fetzer’s democracy initiative. As we consider free speech as a way to practice our citizenship, at Fetzer we strive to imbue this work with values like love, trust, authenticity, and inclusion. Some of the questions that inspire our democracy initiative are:

- How can society regain the mutual respect for expression to truly be free?

- How can we get to a point of accepting differences and finding common ground?

- What does society need to do to create an environment where respect and tolerance for ideas different than our own allows for truly free expression?

Since the project kicked off last December with a compelling event, Free Speech (Un)Limited, we’ve appreciated the breadth and depth of the series’ reporting on timely topics that relate to the First Amendment. The Speech Wars has taken on topics from social media outrage, and the future of local journalism, to the science of constructive arguments, and an animation to help us understand First Amendment rights in the digital space. Some pieces have been informative, others provocative.

We recognize—and value—the range of viewpoints and ideas that this series highlights. As such, we sponsor this series with deep respect for the editorial firewall that is necessary to maintain freedom of the press. The Atlantic directs this series independently and in accordance with its longstanding journalistic standards, and the opinions expressed in the series are the authors’ own.

Another way we can practice democracy is by listening. We want to learn more from you about free speech and its importance in your life. With our mission to help build the spiritual foundation for a loving world, and as that extends to a flourishing democracy, where have you experienced safe and courageous media spaces that support a wide range of ideas and expressions? How do you contribute to an environment that allows for authentic expression? Share your thoughts in the space below, and we’ll share back in the near future what we’ve heard from you on this important topic.


The Atlantic

The Fetzer Institute is a sponsor of "The Speech Wars," a series exploring freedom of expression and freedom of the press.