“No Freedom is Self-Executing”: A Conversation with Nadine Strossen

Abigail J. Fallon | Staff Reporter

Each semester, the Lindenwood Speaker Series features many authors, professors, activists, and lawyers, but few visitors can claim all of these titles at once. One speaker who can is Nadine Strossen, who will grace the Spellman Anheuser-Busch Leadership Room this Tuesday, September 17, 2013. Her speech, which is entitled Surveillance Society and the Threat to Our Civil Rights, begins at 7p.m. and is open to the public. Strossen served as President of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1991-2008 and currently sits on the Council of Foreign Relations.

On Gender, Race, and Discrimination

According to Strossen, the issues of gender and race have greater similarities than they do differences, and she maintains that “…any form of discrimination, including based on sexual orientation, religion, politics, age, you name it, the fundamental principle is that each of us has the right to be judged as an individual and not on the basis of any social category that society might put us in or any label that they might assign to us. We each have fundamental individual freedoms and should be entitled to equality of opportunity no matter who we are in terms of race, gender, or anything else about us.”

On Youth and The Defense of Civil Liberties

Strossen repeatedly emphasizes the significance of today’s youth. When asked what the role of students in preserving civil liberties is, she replied “An absolutely essential role. You know, no freedom is self-executing. Most of the constitution, most of the bill of rights has gone unenforced for most of U.S. history and that’s exactly why you had organizations such as the NAACP and the ACLU founded in the early 20th century, to try to turn these ideals and these promises into a reality…” In other words, the rights that our founding fathers deemed to be “unalienable” do not come naturally, as we sometimes imagine they do; instead they must be carefully defined, gradually cultivated, and constantly defended. In particular, she says, “Young people’s rights really are not going to be realized unless they- you- stand up for them yourself. Because the first pre-requisite for enforcing a right is knowing that it exists.”

On Why Surveillance Matters

Tuesday’s talk specifically focuses on matters of privacy and government surveillance, an important topic for universities to explore. “I hope that college students will be concerned about the problems of being subject to surveillance. I don’t take this for granted because I know that you young people have grown up in a society where … they are affirmatively putting out things on YouTube and other social media for everybody to see, welcoming publicity. So I hope that I will be able to persuade people that there is some value to at least being sure that it’s up to the individual to make that decision about what to preserve as private and what to share with the public.”

To find out what Nadine Strossen’s favorite course was during her college days, her take on the financial burden of higher education, and her views on post-9/11 America, listen to the full interview below.

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