Freedom Sings Performance to Launch 2008 Centennial-Dedication Activities

All-Star Cast to Highlight First Amendment Freedoms through Three Centuries of Banned or Censored Music in America

Columbia, Mo. (Dec. 17, 2007) — You are an exceptional individual if you can name all of the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A 2006 survey found that only three Americans in 1,000 could name all five: speech, press, religion, assembly and petition.

Freedom Sings!“Freedom Sings™,” a critically acclaimed multimedia experience featuring an all-star cast of musicians, hopes to improve these statistics by offering a politically balanced and fresh look at journalism’s core principles. The group will open the 2008 centennial and dedication celebration of the Missouri School of Journalism and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. The 90-minute event will be held the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008, at the University of Missouri.

"Freedom Sings:
“Freedom Sings” features hit songwriters and Grammy Award winners, along with video and live narration. Photo: Freedom Sings.

The First Amendment Center and its ongoing program ‘Freedom Sings™’ are pleased to be part of the celebration of the Missouri program, of journalism education at its highest level,” said Gene Policinski, vice president and executive director of the Center, which is located in Nashville, Tenn., and is an operating program of the Freedom Forum. “Music and musicians are a great way to remind our fellow citizens – particularly young adults – of the power, passion and value of free expression.”

The 2006 “State of the First Amendment” poll, conducted annually among adults by the First Amendment Center, documents a general lack of First Amendment knowledge by the public. A recent survey of young Americans by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum revealed that twice as many Americans can name characters from The Simpsons’ cartoon family than those able to name more than one of the freedoms.

“Freedom Sings™” presents First Amendment information within the context of three centuries of banned or censored music in America. The program features live performances by hit songwriters and Grammy Award winners, along with video and live narration.

Ken Paulson, BJ ’75, now editor of USA Today, had hundreds of songs with alleged references to drugs, sexuality, violence and more to choose from when he created and wrote the popular production. He developed it when he served as executive director of the First Amendment Center. Paulson, who began his career as a music writer and rock critic, will co-narrate the program at Missouri with Policinski.

"Freedom Sings:
Audience members respond enthusiastically to the music of “Freedom Sings.” Photo: Jeff Christian.

The First Amendment Center was founded in 1991 by John Seigenthaler to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Bill of Rights and to start a national dialogue and debate about freedom of expression values, including the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. Seigenthaler was honored with a 2006 Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism in recognition of his entrepreneurial and principled leadership for quality journalism and his belief in free and open government and human rights. Seigenthaler has spent much of his life as a journalist, serving as an award-winning reporter for The Tennessean in Nashville, where he also served as editor, publisher and chief executive officer. He is a former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and served for a decade as the founding editorial director of USA Today. Seigenthaler served as an administrative assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in the U.S. Justice Department during the early 1960s, and was active in the civil rights movement through his work as chief negotiator with the governor of Alabama during the freedom rides.

“Freedom Sings™” began in 1999 with the first of a continuing series of annual concerts at Nashville’s famed Bluebird Café. The touring show began in 2001, and the group has since made appearances in 25 states and the District of Columbia.

Additional information about performance time and other details will be provided closer to the event.

Updated: April 21, 2020

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