Last night at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, NH, the Nackey Loeb School of Communications bestowed on me their prestigious First Amendment Award. Here is my speech.
It’s humbling to be in front of an audience in which nearly everyone deserves recognition for their work to preserve our First Amendment rights.
When my husband and I moved to NH 9 years ago, one of my first organized activities was attending Attorney Sullivan’s First Amendment course at the Nackey Loeb School. The school very kindly put me in touch with Nackey Loeb fellow, Kathy Radford, to arrange a car pool. What a surprise and joy to be here with both of them tonight – and without the need of a ride.
Thank you to the Nackey Loeb Trustees and the selection committee for including me among those previously recognized and who sometimes gave the ultimate sacrifice for our First Amendment liberties. I’m deeply honored to be given this award.
I am especially touched to be sharing this award with David Pearl, someone whose story I knew as it was unfolding and regret never having met. Sadly, there is a private cost for public battles, but they are battles that must be fought.
Why are so many school boards so hell bent on suppressing free speech from the public and their own members? Why do some think public information is a commodity they can dole out at their discretion? Attacks on free speech and corresponding free thought erupt regularly from school boards around our state. Elected officials should be the front line defenders of our Constitution, but instead often fall in line with coercive methods to achieve shared goals rather than respecting bedrock principles.
Tonight while I am here, my school board is voting on a policy to limit public comment to only those things the superintendent permits on the agenda. Although not unconstitutional it certainly gives the cold shoulder to those who wish to petition the government for redress of grievances. If this is continually happening at the school board level, how much more vigilant must we be for higher levels of government?
Fortunately no one needs to fight this battle alone. I know that well because I am the public face of a tremendous support network.
- My husband of 39 years is an equal partner in all I do. Thank you, Arthur, for making me seem formidable – and for giving me a Supreme Court case for an anniversary present.
- My generous and brilliant lawyer, Richard Lehmann, of Douglas, Leonard &Garvey fights for me with a ferocious conviction. Rick took my pro se Superior Court brief and wrung a Supreme Court win out of it so we can all benefit from Right to Know information in electronic form.
- No small part of this story goes to Gilles Bissonnette of the NH ACLU who pushed back against the vile Timberlane School Board Rules that sought to limit board members’ ability to speak to the press or publicly criticize a board decision. Without his early intervention it’s unlikely I would be here.
- My friends and colleagues at RTK NH were and continue to be a huge help and inspiration to me. David Taylor, Harriet Cady, David Saad and others helped me draft my pro se brief and have been steadfast able advocates for Right to Know in the state. Ed Naille and Rich Girard are two other Right to Know warriors whose help and advice are as important to me as their enduring friendship.
- And finally the great people of Sandown who keep electing me and bucking me up with many kind gestures. Ed Mencis, who is here tonight, is to blame for getting me involved with school district politics. Ed, you are the bigger person, but I forgive you anyway.
People sometimes ask me and Arthur how we can keep up the fight. It’s been an amazing journey that shows the remarkable power of individual citizens in NH, and the remarkable nature of NH government.
When we were first talking about how far we should go with our court case, Arthur said:
If not us, then who?
If not us, then who?
When an injured person comes to your door, you cannot say “Go somewhere else.” Each of us carries the burden of defending our injured liberties as best we are able. I’ve learned that there are many good people in this state willing to help, many in this room tonight.
Thank you all for what YOU do, and thank you so very much for this honor.