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WORD OF MOUTH

Florida Free Speech Forum Remains True to its Founding Mission story and photography by Michelle Cerulli McAdams

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ver a Reitz Union lunch one day in 1980, four University of Florida faculty members hashed out a plan for a public speaking series – and it is still going strong today. Chris Andrew, then a professor in UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), had been a fan of the City Club of Cleveland, one of the country’s oldest non-partisan free speech forums that draws speakers, including former presidents, philanthropists, writers and other public figures. Andrew regularly listened to the club’s events over the radio and thought the South would benefit from something similar — a community for open, active and constructive dialogue about issues important to Florida. He suggested the idea for a speaker series to fellow faculty members Alice Primack, Jay Whitehead and Art Newman one day at lunch, and they were immediately onboard. All summer, with the help of many volunteers and a meeting space provided by the Civic Media Center, they worked to get the speaker series off the ground — from writing bylaws and finding dedicated space to hold events, to brainstorming topics and making contact with potential speakers. The Florida Free Speech Forum (FFSF) was born later that fall and remains an open forum dedicated to the rational examination of public issues. “We felt like there needed to be a place where people could speak openly about issues,” said Andrew, who retired about 15 years ago. “That appealed to me and still does. It’s democracy in action.”

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May 2017

Recent speakers and topics have included Clay Calvert, of UF’s College of Journalism and Communications, on fake news and the First Amendment; David Barkey, of the Anti-Defamation League, on hate crimes and hate speech; and Gainesville redevelopers Linda and Ken McGurn with stories from Ken’s recent run for Congress. A SPACE FOR OPEN DIALOGUE Today, FFSF continues to host a luncheon, speaker presentation and question-and-answer session on the second Monday of every month from September to May at the Wyndham Garden Gainesville. The talks, which attract anywhere from about 60 to 100 people per month, are recorded and rebroadcast on local radio stations WUFT and WJUF. Recent speakers and topics have included Clay Calvert, of UF’s College of Journalism and Communications, on fake news and the First Amendment; David Barkey, of the AntiDefamation League, on hate crimes and hate speech; and Gainesville redevelopers Linda and Ken McGurn with stories from Ken’s recent run for Congress. seniortimesmagazine.com

Profile for Senior Times

May 2017  

Veteran's Memorial

May 2017  

Veteran's Memorial