A Double-Edged Sword: Reflections on 230 Years of First Amendment History

A Double-Edged Sword: Reflections on 230 Years of First Amendment History

The First Amendment gives voice to those who might otherwise go unheard and empowers Americans to create change in our society and government. It can also be used to prevent change from happening, to silence minorities, and to keep privilege in position. Each action is seen by some part of the population as an effort to create a more perfect union. On the 230th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, join FAM Board member Peter Onuf, celebrated law professor and historian Annette Gordon-Reed, and noted Constitutional law professor Dmitry Bam as they reflect on the ways we have used the First Amendment as a tool to both transform society and to secure the status quo.

Zoom/FB recording from live conversation on December 15, 2021

About the Speakers:

Dmitry Bam writes and teaches in the fields of constitutional law, professional responsibility, employment law, and the judiciary. Professor Bam served as interim dean of University of Maine Law School from July 2019 to April 2020. Before that he served as the associate dean for academic affairs. Professor Bam practiced with the law firms of Morrison & Foerster and Jones Day and then served as a Research Fellow at the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession and taught at Stanford Law School. He graduated summa cum laude from Syracuse University and earned a law degree with distinction from Stanford Law School where he was a former Articles Editor of the Stanford Law Review and on the editorial board of the Stanford Technology and Law Review. He clerked with the Honorable Barry G. Silverman of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Phoenix, Arizona.

Annette Gordon-Reed is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard. Gordon-Reed won sixteen book prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize in History in 2009 and the National Book Award in 2008, for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton, 2008). She has published numerous notable articles and publications, with her most recent book, On Juneteenth(Liveright Publishing, 2021). Gordon-Reed is the current President of the Ames Foundation. A selected list of her honors includes a fellowship with the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, a Guggenheim Fellowship in the humanities, a MacArthur Fellowship, the National Humanities Medal, the National Book Award, the Frederick Douglass Book Prize, the George Washington Book Prize, and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. Gordon-Reed served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Dartmouth College from 2010 to 2018. 

Peter S. Onuf is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History, Emeritus, at the University of Virginia, where he has taught for more than twenty years. Onuf is also Senior Fellow at Monticello’s Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. A leading scholar of Jefferson and the early American republic, he is the author, co-author, and editor of numerous books including (as author) Jefferson’s Empire: The Language of American Nationhood(2001), The Mind of Thomas Jefferson (2007), and (as editor) Jeffersonian Legacies (1993). He is also a co-host (with Brian Balogh and Edward Ayers) of the weekly public radio program and podcast Backstory with the American History Guys. Onuf currently serves on the Board of Directors at the First Amendment Museum.