The 45 Words that Define Us: Max King on a First Amendment under fire, why we let rights slip away & how we can save them (S01E15)
One of the most fundamentally important sentences for the United States of America is this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
A single sentence. A mere 45 words.
Those 45 words are the entirety of the First Amendment found in our Bill of Rights, and they have been a powerful cornerstone of our identity and our democracy.
“We Can Be” guest Max King has earned his spot as a nationally respected voice on First Amendment issues, which first drew his interest in the pre-social media days of the late ‘70s to late ‘90s when he was a reporter and eventually the editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Years later, his tenure as head of The Heinz Endowments and his current position as president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation gave Max keen insight as to how challenges to First Amendment rights play out in the real lives of individuals.
“To me, freedom of the press, of speech and assembly, and all of the rest of the rights of the First Amendment are the lynch pin for all of our other freedoms,” says Max. “Today so many individuals question if they have a meaningful stake in our society that they are willing to trade to away freedoms in order to feel agency.”
Daily scans of news headlines make clear that the First Amendment issues Max speaks of are undeniably threatened in today’s political climate. From misinformed complaints about NFL protests meant to draw attention police brutality against black Americans to relentless attacks on a free press by those occupying the White House, First Amendment concerns are ever-present in our lives.
In this episode of “We Can Be,” Max talks with Heinz Endowments president and podcast host Grant Oliphant about what he believes to be the underlying cause of the deep divisions that fuel these threats, the reason the First Amendment matters in our everyday lives, and the role we each have in keeping this backbone of our democracy alive and well.
“We Can Be” is produced by the Endowments and Treehouse Media. Theme music is composed by John Dziuban, with incidental music by Josh Slifkin.