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Opinion | Free Speech Is the Most Fundamental American Value

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This is the text of a speech Judge Silberman delivered Sept. 2 at Dartmouth College, his undergraduate alma mater.

This is a Constitution Day talk. So I will address one of today’s most contentious constitutional subjects—the First Amendment’s protection of free speech. As I noted in a recent opinion, the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech is not just a legal doctrine. It represents the most fundamental value in American democracy. A national commitment to uninhibited political speech is a crucial aspect of our country’s culture. It is the penumbra around the First Amendment, which, by itself, only prohibits government control of speech. Unless all American institutions are committed to free political speech, I fear the strain on the First Amendment’s guarantees will become unbearable.



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