Speaking to American and Chinese students at Peking University in Beijing on Saturday, Michelle Obama counted the right to free expression and “open access to information” among the “universal rights that are the birthright of every person on this planet.” She encouraged audience members to seek out “all sides of every argument,” a message she shared with graduating students at Eastern Kentucky University last year.
FIRE applauds Mrs. Obama for her continued advocacy for free speech and for emphasizing the value of discussions between those who disagree with each other. As we frequently note here on The Torch, hearing different viewpoints can help the listener identify and better articulate strengths, weaknesses, and nuances in his own arguments, even if his opinion isn’t completely swayed.
In China, the government regularly censors websites and anti-government speech. In contrast, Mrs. Obama recognized that such expression is a necessary part of our free society:
My husband and I are on the receiving end of plenty of questioning and criticism from our media and our fellow citizens. … And it’s not always easy, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
“Time and again,” she said, “we have seen that countries are stronger and more prosperous when the voices and opinions of all their citizens can be heard.”
Indeed, FIRE fights every day to help ensure that students and faculty across the country can express themselves freely, and we are happy to see Mrs. Obama speak out in support of this fundamental right.