Pizza and Politics Discusses Freedom of Speech

This week at Pizza and Politics, hosted in the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service, students discussed freedom of speech in the modern era.

The discussion was led by Jake Richins and Cami Mathews who are both directors of the Leavitt Center.

The discussion was kicked off by asking the audience, “What does free speech mean to you?” Members from the audience shouted out answers such as: “Free speech is the hallmark of our country,” and, “Free speech is a convenience that has become controversial.”

Richins and Mathews then explained that free speech sits on a very thin line. According to the powerpoint that was presented freedom of speech is supposed to allow people to express themselves without any government influence. The issue of when free speech is protected and when it is not has become debatable

This lead to the next question of the discussion, “Where should the limits–if any–to freedom of speech be set?”

As soon as this question was asked, hands shot up throughout the audience waiting to give their opinion. The majority of the comments made had a common theme; audience members felt that we should have freedom of speech as long as we’re not condemning or attacking others.

During the discussion, Richins kept bringing up the fact that freedom of speech falls into a gray area. “We aren’t quite sure if we really want to draw the line, and if we are to draw the line, where?”

The discussion then turned towards social media. The question presented to the audience from the powerpoint was, “Should people be allowed to express themselves online?” One participant pointed out that people have been shut down on the internet for their points of view, and that there are always repercussions for our actions online. One audience member stated, “The words you type become attached to you.”

During a rather tense moment of discussing the importance of freedom of speech pertaining to social media, an audience member said, “Let’s focus on what the First Amendment says.” She then proceeded to recite the First Amendment. The words rolled off of her tongue as though she was reciting the ABCs. She didn’t miss a beat after this incredible display to explain how it applies to social media. The whole audience sat in awe and broke out into applause when she finished. The discussion shortly ended after this impressive display.

Next week’s topic is on the size of the government and what role it should have. Join us to learn, listen and express your views.

Leavitt Center glass door during the first Pizza and Politics of the school year.