This week we celebrate the Press! Famed Journalist and “most trusted man in America” Walter Cronkite stated that “Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy.” Former High School Debater and US President, John F. Kennedy in a speech on the freedom of information, speech and the Press stated, “For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” Last month and this month there were a series of incredible articles on the power of debate by the Press! However, this month the Freedom of Press also came under attack. When the government threatens certain media outlets who print critical articles as the “enemy of the people,” bans certain media outlets from press conferences – then the freedom of speech, expression, and press is under threat. And so this week we celebrate the Press, the 1st Amendment, and the freedom of expression which is what debate is all about. No matter how much we disagree with the words of another person… we respect such words, engage them. “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire. That is why debate is not just one of the most powerful academic programs, but one of the most powerful civic programs that is critical to our democracy.
Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed – and no republic can survive. … And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment – the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution – not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants” – but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion. This means greater coverage and analysis of international news – for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security. … And so it is to the printing press – to the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news – that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.
– John F. Kennedy’s Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association (27 April 1961). Click here for full audio.
This week we celebrate the Press!