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'Speaking Freely'™


  • Teacher's guide to special edition of 'Speaking Freely' celebrating the civil rights movement

  • 'Speaking Freely' show list, transcripts, videos

    "Speaking Freely,"™ an Emmy-nominated weekly television program about free expression and the arts, appeared for five seasons on public television stations throughout the country.

    Dozens of leading singers, songwriters, playwrights, authors, actors and others offered firsthand insight into the trials and triumphs of free expression in America. The series highlighted those who used their creativity, writing and voices to make a difference.

    Transcripts of the individual programs are available online at the link toward the bottom of this page. Video copies of individual programs may be available, for a $35 handling and shipping fee, on written request (only). Payment should be made to “First Amendment Center” by money order or bank draft only — no credit cards or personal checks accepted. Send your request to:

    Speaking Freely Archive
    Box SF-1
    First Amendment Center
    1207 18th Ave. S.
    Nashville, TN 37212


    Talking about freedom: guests on 'Speaking Freely'

    "The First Amendment is an issue where troops have to be deployed on the front lines, and we have to have the push and pull of this debate continuously. It's not gonna go away ... . We can't have government officials determining for us what is art and what is not art." — Actor William Baldwin, president of the Creative Coalition

    "Censorship from the right is to be expected. Censorship from the left caught me by surprise. And I’m talking about what started out as campus speech codes on college campuses and is now known as 'politically correct' language." — Comedian George Carlin

    "We’re going to politically correct ourselves into the grave here. We literally are. We’re so — we’re so concerned with being politically correct, and political correctness, to a big part, is basically semantics. It has no underpinning." — Singer-songwriter Charlie Daniels on the controversy behind his song, "This Ain’t No Rag, It’s a Flag"

    "I think dissident speech is not valued in our nation, whether it comes from ... rich white men or poor white men. I think the real issue is: We are in danger as a nation of silencing any form of speech that goes against what is perceived to be the status quo." — Author bell hooks

    "[It was not so safe] that there wasn't a department of censor that was looking at every single word, but safe in terms of the American people ... . If the American people were let alone by the establishment — they're far more grown-up. They've always been taken by the establishment to be far less grown-up, far less wise-hearted, than they really are. And I have to believe that CBS, even though it signed off on the show, felt positively about the show, had to gird itself for the night that it went on the air ... . Most of them wasted their time. There just wasn't a big fallout." — Producer Norman Lear on the premiere of "All in the Family"

    "(After the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King) somebody’s got to stand up and say, 'Hey, you know what? Pay attention' ... I just felt driven to say something and the record company did not agree with me. They said, 'This is not your business. You’re not a politician. You’re supposed to make money for us. That is your purpose in life.' I said, 'I don’t think so.'" — Musician Felix Cavaliere of the Rascals on his hit, "People Got to be Free"


    Art makes headlines, too
    For centuries, artists and musicians have balanced on the cutting edge of social issues. Their words, sounds and images protest the status quo, offend the conventional, speak the unspoken. They force us to face things we'd prefer to ignore.

    That's the thrust of "Speaking Freely," a weekly, half-hour television program spotlighting freedom of expression issues in the arts through guest performances and presentations that set the programs apart.

    On each program, leading personalities from the world of art and culture share stories of personal encounters with censorship and the ways in which such encounters affect life, art and the larger society.

    Why a show devoted exclusively to free expression and the arts?
    While the 45 words of the First Amendment have gone unchanged since their adoption, unchanged does not mean unchallenged.

    Americans largely respect the First Amendment as an ideal but are ambivalent when it protects offensive ideas or controversial art.

    "Speaking Freely" reminds us of the importance of preserving free expression in art, music, theater and literature.

    The First Amendment Center can supply promotional materials, print listings and media-relations support to place news stories about "Speaking Freely" in national and local media outlets.


    Previous guests on 'Speaking Freely'

    "Many people think that taking a stand on social and human issues is the unpopular thing to do." — Harry Belafonte, actor

    "Most people — kids, adults, even law students sometimes — don't know their own rights and liberties. So they're indifferent or hostile to other people's." — Nat Hentoff, author and columnist

    "I've always felt that ideas are not dangerous. It's the repression of those ideas that's dangerous. Ideas in themselves should not threaten anyone." — Andres Serrano, visual artist

    "The greatness of our democracy is the difference of opinion and the ability to voice it freely." — Jane Alexander, actress and former National Endowment for the Arts chair

    "Without free speech, this country is no different from any dictatorship." — Janis Ian, singer and songwriter

    "The arts for the black community were always a forum for our politics, our protests." — Ossie Davis, actor

    The First Amendment "is the finest defense of personal freedom that has ever taken place." — David Crosby, singer and songwriter

    The art of speaking freely is the beauty of democracy.



  • Related

    'Speaking Freely'™ show list, transcripts, videos

    'Speaking Freely'™ teacher's guide on civil rights movement

    Free Speech & Music

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    Last system update: Thursday, August 21, 2008 | 16:51:08
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