Danielle Lahee is a rising junior at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia, where she currently majors in Psychology and minors in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Previously, Danielle interned at the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice in New York City.
Of her decision to intern at FIRE this summer, Danielle writes:
I first found FIRE in my search for a summer internship that would challenge me and force me outside of my comfort zone. Before this search, I was not aware of FIRE or the contributions it makes to the university community. FIRE fit well with my own beliefs: that individual rights are the most important guaranteed rights. As a college student, I have witnessed that despite being at "free" institutions, university students are some of the most vulnerable citizens. As I looked around at my own school, I realized the vulnerability was closer than I thought. I began to notice that many students matriculated having not had their minds sufficiently opened. Rather than welcoming a variety of ideas, my campus culture dictated the parameters in which individuals had to stay. These parameters were stifling and made sure that reality on campus did not coincide with the the promises of the law. It is the potential of this internship to not only recognize it but offer solutions that attracts me most to FIRE.
Voltaire’s biographer once wrote that Voltaire’s attitude in a free speech controversy was, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." This point of view establishes that speech—and beyond that other fundamental rights—should be fiercely protected. Second, it establishes a sense of moral obligation to defend others’ rights, a cause that FIRE has championed. FIRE is an organization based around teaching not what to think but that you should think. My goal for the summer is to educate myself so that I may educate others.
This goal would, first, allow me to become the advocate and protector of free speech I desire to be. Considering that my aspiration is to become a Family Court Judge, honing my skills in understanding personal rights is a valuable stepping stone. Second, this goal would allow me to begin to interact on a different level with those in my campus community. I want to assist my school in working to eliminate the hushed conversations and politically correct tones. In their place, I hope to see a free marketplace of ideas that a university is supposed to be. Working with FIRE this summer is the start I need to move toward these goals.
Welcome, Danielle! To help support FIRE’s internship program, visit thefire.org/interns.