“When one side only of a story is heard and often repeated, the human mind becomes impressed with it insensibly.”
—George Washington in a letter to Edmond Pendleton, Thursday, January 22, 1795
OHIO’s George Washington Forum on American Ideas, Politics, and Institutions teaches America’s foundational principles in their Western intellectual, political, and institutional contexts. It is grounded on the idea that students facing an increasingly globalized world need to understand what distinguishes the nation in which they live and the civilization from which it emerged.
In spring 2017, the George Washington Forum hosted a conference themed The Freedom of Speech, 1550-1850. The two-day, intellectual series of lectures and debates—made possible by a grant to The Ohio University Foundation from the Charles Koch Foundation—promoted academic discussion, explored new research trends in the history of the freedom of speech, and featured eight sessions with topics ranging from “J.S. Mill’s Theory of Public Engagement” to “The Origins of the Concepts of Freedom of the Press.”
The Forum hosted its first conference in 2010 with Making Democracy: Violence, Politics, and the American Founding. Its eighth such event, in spring 2018, will explore Voting: A History.
Through conferences, guest speakers, and other special events, the Forum helps students become enlightened citizens in a liberal democracy.
When planning the 2017 conference, Associate Professor of History Robert Ingram said organizers thought there was a need for an examination of the history of free speech.
“All too often, debates about these issues lack a historical dimension, and are often only vaguely informed by an understanding of how freedom of speech came to be regarded as important,” Ingram said. “There is also a lack of understanding about the many different ways in which past societies dealt with the challenges involved in calibrating their public spheres and moderating free expression … Our goal was to help people understand where the freedom of speech came from and why and how it became one of the core liberal values in the modern world.”