Truth Seeking and Freedom of Expression: A Dialogue

Robert P. George and Cornel West will join the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University to discuss the importance of open dialogue in pursuit of civil discussion and the serious and respectful exchange of ideas, on university campuses and in American society. The event is co-sponsored by the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. It is the first 2018 event in the series: “Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education and American Society.”

On March 17, 2017, George and West published a statement, in support of “Truth Seeking, Democracy, and Freedom of Thought and Expression,” with the intention of drawing attention to the necessity of promoting freedom of thought and expression. The two became alarmed after a seeming epidemic of incidents on college campuses erupted across the country during which invited speakers were heckled or prevented from speaking altogether, sometimes violently. Their statement rejects what they call “campus illiberalism,” which they describe as the effort “to immunize from criticism opinions that happen to be dominant in their particular communities” and to exclude certain topics of discussion by “questioning the motives and thus stigmatizing those who dissent from prevailing opinions.”

Instead, West and George call on faculty, students and administrators to encourage an atmosphere in which “people feel free to speak their minds – where people are challenging each other, and thus learning.” To this end, the two professors have taught together at Princeton for more than 10 years and, while they disagree about politics, they are both advocates of the sort of liberal education that challenges us to examine our opinions and to learn from those with whom we disagree.

Cornel West
Cornel West is a prominent public intellectual and professor of public philosophy and African and African- American studies at Harvard University, and a self-described “radical Democrat.” He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his Master of Arts and doctorate in Philosophy at Princeton University.

Since then, he has taught at Union Theological Seminary, Yale, Harvard and the University of Paris. He has written 19 books and edited 13 other. He is best known for his classic “Race Matters,” “Democracy Matters” and his memoir, “Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud.”

A cultural icon, he is the recipient of the American Book Award as well as more than 20 honorary degrees. He appears frequently on the Bill Maher Show, Colbert Report, CNN and C-Span as well as on Tavis Smiley’s PBS-TV Show. His radio program “Smiley and West” was very popular. West has also appeared in over 25 documentaries and recorded three spoken word albums. In short, Cornel West has a passion to communicate in order to keep alive the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. — a legacy of telling the truth and bearing witness to love and justice.

Robert P. George
Robert P. George is McCormick professor of jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He is also the Herbert W. Vaughan Fellow of the Witherspoon Institute and has been a visiting professor at Harvard Law School. He has served as Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and as a presidential appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He has also served on the President’s Council on Bioethics and as the U.S. member of UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Science and Technology. He was a Judicial Fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States, where he received the Justice Tom C. Clark Award.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Swarthmore College, he holds degrees in law and theology from Harvard and the degrees of Doctor of Philosophy, Bachelor of Civil Law and Doctor of Civil Law from Oxford University, in addition to eighteen honorary degrees. He is a recipient of the U.S. Presidential Citizens Medal, the Honorific Medal for the Defense of Human Rights of the Republic of Poland, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His most recent book is “Conscience and Its Enemies” (ISI Books).

The event is free and open to all ASU students. The wider general public is welcome to attend. Parking is available for $3 per hour in the Apache Boulevard Structure.

The event will be filmed by Arizona PBS. Please be aware that by attending the event, you consent to your voice, name and/or likeness being used, without compensation, in films and tapes in any and all media, whether now known or hereafter devised, for eternity, and you release Arizona State University, its successors, assigns and licensees from any liability whatsoever of any nature.

For more information about the newly established School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, please visit scetl.asu.edu. For questions about this event, email SCETLevents@asu.edu or call 480-965-0155.

***Photo courtesy of the Hauenstein Center at Grand Valley State University.