Fake News, New Technology Highlight National Conference on First Amendment

Duquesne University and The Pittsburgh Foundation to Host Nationally Prominent Leaders Oct. 21-22

Pittsburgh will be at the epicenter of one of America's most timely, important discussions when Duquesne University and The Pittsburgh Foundation - in cooperation with the National Constitution Center - host the "National Conference on the First Amendment: Bedrock of American Freedom." The two-day conference will be held on Oct. 21-22 on the Duquesne campus. It aims to provide a non-partisan, balanced look at the amendment that plays such a key role in all aspects of American life.

"At this moment in our nation's history, it's particularly important for Americans to rediscover the central role that the First Amendment plays in our democracy," Duquesne University President Ken Gormley said. "All other freedoms under our Constitution are imperiled if fundamental First Amendment freedoms are undermined. With the help of some of the best minds in the country, this gathering can be a catalyst for positive change."

The conference will include panel discussions on all aspects of the First Amendment - including freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and association. Experts will address the emergence of fake news and the influence of free speech as it impacts college campuses, national security, new technology and artistic expression.

"In this time of such sharp political and ideological differences, our most important role as a community foundation is to provide opportunities for people to gather to engage in respectful civic dialogue," said Maxwell King, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation. "Our partnership with Duquesne University on a national conference follows a regionally focused event co-hosted with The Heinz Endowments in June. We see these projects as critically important in bringing people with diverse perspectives together to protect democratic institutions and first amendment freedoms by calling out threats that would undermine them."

Moderators and speakers comprise nationally prominent leaders, including:

  • Martin Baron, executive editor of the Washington Post
  • Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times
  • Noel Francisco, U.S. solicitor general
  • Tom Ridge, former U.S. secretary of Homeland Security and former Pennsylvania governor
  • General Mike Hayden, former CIA and NSA director
  • First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, author of the book The Soul of the First Amendment
  • Television commentators Juan Williams and Hugh Hewitt.

Ohio Governor John Kasich and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will make video appearances. Harvard Law School professor and television commentator Alan Dershowitz will appear via Skype.

The conference also will offer international perspectives. Russian journalist Elizaveta Osetinskaya, a former editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Forbes, and Suki Kim, who went undercover in North Korea in 2011 to write the bestselling book Without You, There Is No Us, will speak on the First Amendment's role as a beacon of liberty around the world.

"From the start, the conference was designed to be respectful of all points of view," Gormley said. "National experts from all different backgrounds and political beliefs will come together at Duquesne to explore the First Amendment's pivotal role in our American democracy."

In order to reach a national and global audience, the conference will be webcast. A variety of videos, podcasts and white papers will be made available online following the event.

The conference is presented by Duquesne and The Pittsburgh Foundation in collaboration with the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, the Newseum in Washington, D.C., the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and other organizations dedicated to advancing First Amendment principles. Generous funding is provided through The Pittsburgh Foundation, Allegheny Foundation, the Benter Foundation, the Knight Foundation and others.

For more information about the conference and speakers, visit www.duq.edu/1a.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University's academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim. 

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