Zachary Wood – Testimony Before The U.S. Senate On Free Speech

June 20, 2017

Zach Wood explains the importance of hearing and debating controversial ideas, even those we find offensive. He gives an important and eloquent 5-minute speech before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

“For me, free speech is not about grinding a partisan axe or advancing any set of enduring ideological preferences. I care deeply about my education and I value the freedom to interrogate all manner of contentious ideas and beliefs in hope of gaining a deeper understanding of the world and using that knowledge to one day make a positive difference in the lives of others. Free speech and intellectual freedom matter to me because they are among the founding principles that animate the vibrancy and ensure the sustenance of our democracy.”

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Do Liberals Hold the Moral High Ground?

Debate hosted and sponsored by Intelligence Squared. Debaters for the motion: Howard Dean and Melissa Harris-Perry. Debaters against the motion: David Brooks and Robert George.

[The two debaters against the motion are well known for their lucid, eloquent, and cogent arguments.]

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What Moderates Believe

David Brooks writes that moderates “… believe creativity happens when you merge galaxies of belief that seem at first blush incompatible. They might combine left-wing ideas about labor unions with right-wing ideas about local community to come up with a new conception of labor law. Because they are syncretistic, they are careful to spend time in opposing camps, always opening lines of communication. The wise moderate can hold two or more opposing ideas together in her mind at the same time.”

[No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, this short article is well worth reading. Very thought-provoking.]

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The Psychology of Self-Righteousness

Krista Tippett (host of On Being) interviews Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at NYU’s Stern School of Business. “The surprising psychology behind morality is at the heart of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s research. He explains “liberal” and “conservative” not narrowly or necessarily as political affiliations, but as personality types — ways of moving through the world.”

[Among his many important contributions, Haidt highlights the extent to which emotions drive our rational thought.]

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Democracy at the Crossroads

Read these international perspectives from The Graduate Institute, Geneva, Switzerland, a European graduate school and think-tank. “…democracy continues to be acclaimed everywhere, but indicators of political and civic freedom show it to be in deep trouble. This paradox of democratic success but liberal decline calls for a more fine-grained analysis…”

[Always refreshing to step out of a U.S.-centric perspective on global affairs and see issues through a different lens.]

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Viewpoint Diversity on Campus

A panel discussion among four professors from four different American universities, hosted at New York University and sponsored by Heterodox Academy, FIRE, and So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast. “What can we do to break this cycle, to reduce the fear, and to help American universities return to their historic missions of education and research?”

[Interesting discussion about tensions on American campuses and how to shift the dynamics.]

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America’s Changing Role in the World

Washington University in St. Louis hosted the first in a series of debates on America’s changing role in the world, convened by the Foreign Policy program at Brookings and the Charles Koch Institute. “The goal of these debates, to be held in cities around the United States, is to foster a vigorous, civil, and constructive national discussion on the future of American foreign policy.”

[The debate includes both an American and European perspective.]

Visit website to view list of speakers, moderator, and a video of the live-streamed event.



Fascinating, high-quality debates out of Toronto on global issues, all available through video streaming.

Topics include: The West vs. Russia; Gender in the 21st Century; Future of Geopolitics; Global Refugee Crisis; Religion; among others.

Past participants include: Henry Kissinger, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Ingraham, Jennifer Granholm, Paul Krugman, Fareed Zakaria, Hanna Rosin, Maureen Dowd, Tony Blair, Camille Paglia, among others.

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Provides a simple yet structured format for initiating conversations in small groups to discuss issues for which there are many (and sometimes divisive) perspectives. The goal is to cultivate civil discourse around difficult issues, and “pave the way for collaborative and inclusive problem-solving.”

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This website has a wealth of information, including:

  • News stories from left, center, and right perspectives;
  • List of publications and whether they lean left or right;
  • Dictionary of words with different interpretations on left and right;
  • School program and suggested curriculum;
  • Blog and newsfeed.

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"INDIVISIBLE" podcasts

These podcasts are enlightening because the hosts invite interesting and knowledgeable guests, and the discussion goes far beyond what the title suggests. A great place to hear a range of views and perspectives.

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"ON BEING" Podcast: Repairing the Breach

This is a podcast of a great conversation with Heather McGhee and Matt Kibbe, hosted by Krista Tippett, about building bridges in conversation.  "It’s hard to imagine honest, revelatory, even enjoyable conversation between people on distant points of American life right now. But in this public conversation at the Citizen University annual conference, Matt Kibbe and Heather McGhee show us how. He’s a libertarian who helped activate the Tea Party. She’s a millennial progressive leader. They are bridge people for this moment — holding passion and conviction together with an enthusiasm for engaging difference, and carrying questions as vigorously as they carry answers."

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Interesting website with a wealth of information. “We are a politically diverse group of…scholars who want to improve our academic disciplines and universities. We share a concern about a growing problem: the loss or lack of “viewpoint diversity.” “We have come together to advocate for a more intellectually diverse and heterodox academy.”

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Many opportunities to participate and learn. “The Institute of Politics, a non-partisan, extracurricular organization at the University of Chicago, aims to inspire and cultivate the next generation of political and public service leaders.

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Statement by Robert P. George and Cornel West

Robert P. George is a conservative legal scholar and professor at Princeton University; Cornel West a progressive scholar of public philosophy and professor at Harvard University. They have written a joint statement about the importance of open-mindedness and dialogue, and invited others to sign the statement. “The pursuit of knowledge and the maintenance of a free and democratic society require the cultivation and practice of the virtues of intellectual humility, openness of mind, and, above all, love of truth.”

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This is annual forum designed to elevate civic conversation, foster new relationships and inspire action. It is produced and organized by the Chicago Community Trust. "Together we can discover ways to make our communities stronger, safer and more dynamic." You can register to host or join a conversation.

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Third Way

One of the few policy think-tanks that strives to be more centrist, although it appears to be slightly left-leaning (in my (SVK) opinion). A lot of good facts and deep analysis on all the major issues, from education policy to national security.

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Can We Reunite America?

Podcast hosted by Kerri Miller on Indivisible, New York Public Radio, March 2, 2017.
Explores the weekend event that brought together Trump supporters and opponents for an entire weekend to learn to truly hear each other. Organized by Better Angels and facilitated by Professor William Doherty, a social psychologist at the University of Minnesota. Interviews with two people who took part, and with Professor Doherty.

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TED Talk: The Danger of a Single Story

Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

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