Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


What Would You Do?

By Eran Wade
I visited and saw the film at the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum even before I started volunteering. It tells three stories of current debates surrounding first amendment freedoms. The last story is about some widows of 9/11 petitioning and questioning the United States government to shed light, clarity, and truth on "that fateful day." The story of these courageous women demanding answers from their government really moved me. This is one of the freedoms guaranteed in the first amendment that I know very little about. It seems to have to do with the right to voice our opinions and question the conduct of our government. (Of course, there are certain limitations within the first amendment). We can say if we disagree with and petition our government.

Switching gears, in Madeleine Albright’s recent book, “Memo to the President Elect,” she asks, “What is our republic’s rightful role? Should the United States be content to serve as a model for others or seek actively to spread freedom? Should our presidents be guided by narrow considerations of national self-interest or by our zeal to lift lives and solve global problems?” How much should the U.S. only be concerned with our economic interests and how much should we also be concerned about how our international relations affect human rights, fair trade, and other social questions? These are two seemingly opposite points of view and two valid questions.

Currently I’m asking questions related to these points: 1) We are a people that have the freedom to question our government. 2) Should our international policy towards other countries be solely our own economic self-interest or should it go beyond that? 3) What are the best ideas for international policy regarding Colombia?

Before I left for Colombia, people asked, “What exactly are you going to be doing in Colombia? Are you going to build something? Are you going to teach or do some sort of project?” In the United States I was used to hearing about poor people who needed assistance. I heard about starving children because of famine. I heard of Rotary International working to eradicate diseases. I led a youth group to help finish a building on a Native American Reservation. All over the world there are poor families—even in the U.S. What’s so unique about Colombia? Helping the social services needs of the poor is valid. However, the people here are able to provide social services, do their own building, and do work with their own people. My objective here was always meant to be different.

Deeper questions had been asked. Why are these people poor? Are they being treated fairly? Even more at stake are questions related to the right to disagree with one's government--the kinds of questions talked about and illustrated at the Freedom Museum. My work here is to accompany people who are standing up for the poor. This means I am spending time with them as they ask the tough questions related to the three points and questions I listed above.

I am befriending church workers, lawyers, and college student advocates to listen to their stories. They are asking their own questions. What is our organization's role in the conflict in Colombia? What is our social role? What is our civic duty? Should we question our leaders? Can we question the policy of our government? I confess I have taken this freedom for granted in the United States. This freedom was important to our founding fathers in the new democracy. They sacrificed to bring us that freedom. What if our lives were threatened because we questioned our government? What if we were in danger because we advocated for a change in the way our nation did things?

I have brought up some of these ideas in previous posts in different ways. Now I am bringing them up to set the stage for some ideas in my next blog(s). It would be great to get your feedback about the questions I'm asking. Go ahead. Post your comment at the end of this blog. I’m able to read each comment posted.

I'll end with how the Freedom Museum film ends. Just pretend there's some catchy music in the background, some captivating images on the screen (better yet, go to the museum and view the film yourself). Then the voiceover closes with questions like, “What would you do if your most basic freedoms were gone tomorrow? What would you do?”


Anonymous Brad Pierce said...

Great blog Eran - thanks for sharing & keeping us updated on your experience. -Brad

11:55 AM  

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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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