Grayson speaks on First Amendment

Former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, left, speaks with accounting senior Aleksey Graboviy at the State of the First Amendment Address at the William T. Young Library Auditorium in Lexington, Ky., on Monday, March 4, 2013. Photo by Tessa Lighty | Staff

By Brenton Ward | @KyKernel

The School of Journalism and Telecommunications held its annual First Amendment Celebration in the W.T. Young auditorium Monday night.

Kim Greene, a Louisville attorney, was awarded the James Madison Award for Service to the First Amendment by the Scripps Howard First Amendment Center for her long career with news organizations from around the state.

“The First Amendment is just that special ingredient that makes our country so different from all others,” Greene said in her acceptance speech.

“Having the ability to explore the world, say something outrageous with total impunity … not everyone has that ability; you do,” Greene said later in the evening.

The award ceremony was followed by a State of the First Amendment Address by former Kentucky Secretary of State, Trey Grayson.

“Public discussion is a political duty, and that should be a fundamental principle of American government,” Grayson said, quoting the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.

A Kentucky native with two degrees from UK, Grayson served on the Institute of Politics Senior Advisory Committee for six years at Harvard University before becoming the director of the I.O.P. in January 2011.

Grayson is involved in the institute’s research on the political beliefs of Millennials, people ages 18-29, along with issues like civic education and voter registration reform.

After winning his first election for political office, Grayson became the youngest secretary of state in the country. He served two terms as secretary from 2004-2011.

Grayson’s address focused on the ways elections and the First Amendment intersect, and spoke on a number of current and past election issues.

He began with a brief history of voting rights in the United States.

“Historically, elections have been very much a state concern,” Grayson said. “So you had a hodgepodge of election administration practices, histories, techniques.”

Grayson went on to discuss the laws and amendments implemented by the federal government in an effort to normalize the voting practice.

“Many of these amendments came as the result of movements,” Grayson said. “And these movements came from individuals that exercised their First Amendment rights.”

Grayson also recalled instances when election law has come into conflict with the First Amendment, including long litigation on the practice of electioneering in the state.

The speech was followed by a Q&A session where Grayson spoke on topics such as Citizen’s United, the rise of new media, and voter ID laws.

Students responded well to the event.

Senior Zac Brown shared one simple message about the First Amendment: “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”