Founder, First Amendment Center
Tuesday, April 27, 2007 · Alkek Teaching Theater · 6:30 p.m.
John Seigenthaler founded the First Amendment Center in 1991 with the mission of creating national discussion, dialogue and debate about First Amendment rights and values. The center works nationwide to preserve and protect First Amendment freedoms through information and education. With offices at Vanderbilt and Arlington, Va., the center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of free-expression issues, including freedom of speech, of the press and of religion, the right to assemble and petition the government. Seigenthaler also served as senior advisory trustee of the Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all people based in Arlington, Va.
A former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Seigenthaler served for 43 years as an award-winning journalist for The Tennessean, Nashville’s morning newspaper. In 1982, Seigenthaler became founding editorial director of USA TODAY and served in that position for a decade, retiring from both the Nashville and national newspapers in 1991.
In the early 1960s, Seigenthaler served in the U.S. Justice Department as administrative assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, where he worked as chief negotiator with the governor of Alabama during the Freedom Rides civil rights crisis and suffered an attack by a mob of Klansmen in Montgomery, Ala.
Seigenthaler hosted a weekly book-review program, “A Word On Words.” He chairs the annual “Profile in Courage Award” selection committee of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and co-chairs the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for the RFK Memorial. Seigenthaler served on the 18-member National Commission on Federal Election Reform organized in 2001 by former Presidents Carter and Ford and is a member of the Constitution Project on Liberty and Security, created after the Sept. 11 tragedies in New York and Washington.
“Segregation offended at the very core the most basic Christian teaching. It made a charade of any pretense of common decency. How could we have accepted without comment or concern, a way of life that was so cruel, so unjust, so corrupt?”