Introducing Summer Intern Casey Given

By June 17, 2010

Casey Given hails from the University of California, Berkeley, where he majors in Rhetoric with a minor in Philosophy. At Berkeley, Casey founded and now serves as president of a Students For Liberty chapter. He also writes for the California Patriot magazinethe subject of a recent FIRE case. On the value of free speech and why he came to FIRE, Casey writes:

My university is a contradiction. Being well-known for its free speech movement in the 1960s, Berkeley and its students and administration constantly pay lip service to freedom of expression. In fact, a popular hangout on campus is the Free Speech Movement Café, a coffee house that celebrates the exchange of ideas with elaborate displays of the famous ’60s movement. Unfortunately, these historical portraits capture an era of open discourse at Berkeley that does not continue today. While freedom of expression is (for the most part) respected by the administration, an aura of political correctness and close-mindedness plagues the campus. Most students apathetically evade any conversation regarding politics or philosophy, while the minority of students who are willing to engage in discussion tend to avoid doing so with those of differing views.

I would like to help change the situation. As a student of rhetoric, I’ve always had a tremendous appreciation for the exchange of ideas. I feel that individuals should not naively cling to their beliefs as if they were infallible, but rather should openly discuss and debate them with others in pursuit of truth. As John Stuart Mill put it, "No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any other mode but … correcting and completing his own opinion by collating it with those of others." Thus, through openly exchanging ideas, a genuine marketplace of ideas can materialize, where good ideas can flourish and bad ideas can fail. This ideal is the very essence of freedom of expression as manifested by our First Amendment, and is also the reason I am interning for FIRE. FIRE has a very deep understanding of the importance of free speech to a functioning democracy, which I greatly admire and seek to learn from. During my summer at FIRE, I hope to internalize techniques to open up dialogue at Berkeley as a student leader so that a true marketplace of ideas can flourish. I want to help make Berkeley a utopia of free expression that would put a smile on Mill’s face.