tv Attorney General Sessions on Campus Free Speech CSPAN July 28, 2018 11:41pm-12:16am EDT
watch sunday night at 9:00 p.m. eastern on c-span twos booktv. >> next, attorney general jeff sessions talks about free speech to a group of high school students gathered in washington, and tc they were there for a summit hosted by the group turning point usa. this is 30 minutes. ♪ ["sweet home alabama" playing] mr. sessions: nice to be with you. you made my morning. i love you guys. thank you. thank you for the introduction. andk you for your gumption
commitment and using the great talent you have to advance common sense conservative values that i know you and i all share. conservativism is a lot of things. at the american spectator conservative journal, i started reading it and college, it said conservativism is a task of mind. a way of looking at things. being a little bit cautious sometimes. not assuming as so many people do that they could just remake history and the world could be a lot different a few years from now. history does not tell us that is likely to happen. we need to be cautious about that sometimes. i would say to you, i am proud of you that you would work hard
yourself for the challenges that come because it is a different world. the one way of been in. i want to thank candace owens. close --nd applause [cheers and applause] sessions: i love the way she thinks. kanye west likes that. he has the same kind of energy that he says the president has, i have to say. actually, that is a very good description of the president of the united states. the man has extraordinary energy. he has been gifted with it. he allows -- it allows him to be a constant leader everything overnight and dave. i think it allows him to push
what we believe in. pushing this country on the right track. defending our successes a nation. the freedom and asperity this nation has provided. apologize.eed to we need to defend and advocate. don't you think? i think so. [cheers and applause] mr. sessions: you will be several people, including my friend and colleague jeff perdue. we battled on a lot of important issues. this is a fabulous opportunity for you. i am proud to see my home state of alabama is well represented. . want to give a warm welcome
buckhorn high school outside of huntsville and alabama. it is a great high school. i visited james clemens high at the and a high school other end of the state. it is inspiring to see so many of you here. so many young people are committed to battling for the future of the republic that we hold dear. i've got to tell you. [applause] mr. sessions: i was about your age when i got involved in politics. nobody in my family was particularly involved. i had a couple high school teachers. one taught government and one taught english. one was one of the most informative people in my life.
a brilliant man. groep on a farm, fought in world war ii, a fabulous student of literature. he had conservative values. are ok. sessions, you you are a good young guy. you have a future ahead of you. you have to be armed before you get to college. they will lead you astray if you do not watch it. you need to be prepared. so he encouraged me to read the conservative national review. it came every two weeks. so i scraped up my nine dollars and i was reading it with my dictionary, william buckley, such a brilliant commentator and great group of writers he assembled when the trends were going the other way. that the government trends were
in full force. and there was this little group of intellects that appealed to me and captured my imagination. interested in it. i kept up with it. interested in it if you did not have some of the same approaches. they said it was such a tough time. in many ways, conservativism had much less influence than it does today. truly. they thought they were stand history and battling forces that seem to be inevitable. the liberals tended to gain every year. things started to change. i went to a little liberal art college and montgomery. we formed the first young republican club ever formed and that town and that college.
i got excited about barry goldwater and told mr. oakley you workedi met him, my brain and high school and i've not changed since. that is the way i still feel about it. ways aere facing in many circumstance similar to yours although i do not think the hostility was as great as it is today on college campuses from what i hear. of us, butolerant politically winning elections in alabama was very of a there were just not very many republicans in the south and alabama. in 1987, 113 years later, the
governor was always a democrat. both senators were democrats. in 1994, i became the first republican since reconstruction to be elected attorney general of alabama. [cheers and applause. mr. sessions: i'm telling you this, we should think about it. you get the picture. we were outnumbered. the odds were stacked against us. but we worked hard. we campaign. i remember campaigning for the governor, afor candidate for governor, my wife and a group of us went to the state fair to pass out bumper stickers. we were supporting a very articulate, dynamic republican
candidate against george wallace and his wife, the segregationist. we were excited about it. we thought things might happen but the wallace machine crushed the republican party in that election and continued to do so for a number of years. but we did not . we try to stand firm. , allboth senators apparatus, all nine members independently elected to the supreme court, is the republican and conservative.
[applause] mr. sessions: so i want to commend you for having the gumption to stand up. you have support at home, you have support of your friends, but in college you will need to be strong. i suggest you find a magazine like the weekly review or american spec hader and read it every time cover to cover. it is an educational thing because these are intellectuals. they are conservatives who have been through the war. have had decades of experiences. you will pick up the nuances that will make you more effective when you're trying to defend your values and college than would otherwise be the case. and i encourage that. some elements in our society want to stop you. they want to silence debates. not with facts or arguments,
they just want to stop you from speaking at all. they want you to feel outnumbered. they want you to feel discouraged. they want you to quit. yourwant you to abandon values. stand strong for what you believe. prepare yourself to defend those values. not,er you realize it or freedom of thought and speech on the american campus is under attack today, of all places. [applause] mr. sessions: the college campus should be where debate and discussion should be appreciated, honored. nowhere has there been more arbitrary and capricious restrictions on free speech then
in the suppose it educational institutions. it is amazing. many try to intimidate people into silence. in october, a black lives group at william and mary shut down the aclu event on the first amendment. they shouted "liberalism is white supremacy." taylor, two --t hitler, too." at middlebury college, shut down aiolently debate between an invited speaker and one of the schools on professors. they shouted for 20 minutes. shouting.
preventing the debate on a subject of importance from occurring. people pulled fire alarms, surrounded the speakers, began to physically assault them. although the protesters were a group of leftist, it was the professor who ended up in the hospital. she said she feared for her life. this is at middlebury college. constitutional rights for all americans exist. not just for those in one party or one faction. indeed, the crackdown on speech --mpted a group --iversity,
virginia tech just invited a conservative african-american speaker because he had written on race issues and they were worried that protest might disrupt the event. greats not in the tradition of america. these trends are disturbing. far too many schools are complicit in the effort to prevent genuine debate and engagement through things such as trigger warnings about micro-aggressions. they have cry closets. save spaces. spaces. grade inflations. too many schools are coddling young people and preventing them from scrutinizing their beliefs and the issues of the day. opposite ofexact
what we expect from our universities in this happening. after the 2016 election, they held a cry-an act cornell. bcry-in atd a cornell. i hope they had plenty of tissues. they had crayola's. they had coloring books. students were encouraged to draw out their feelings. i can tell this group is not going to have to have play-doh when you get attacked in college when you get involved in a debate. you were going to stand up and defend yourselves and the values you believe in. [applause] mr. sessions: i like this group. go get them!
go get them! crowd: lock her up! lock her up! lock her up! mr. sessions: i heard that a lot over the last campaign. some schools are doing everything they can to create a generation of sanctimonious, sensitive, supercilious snowflakes. we are not going to have it. [applause] mr. sessions: that is a disservice to the students and to the nation. students from difficult or challenging ideas is a key aspect of the problem. last year, the foundation for
individual rights in education surveyed 450 colleges and universities across this country and found that 40 maintained speech codes that substantially and french on constitutionally protected speech. of the public colleges surveyed, which are legally bound by the first amendment to speak -- of free speech, one third had written policies banning disfavored speech. freedom of speech is a decisive issue today. you will be involved in it. it is important, not just for students. it is important for our society as a whole. we cannot have free hand delivered of government without freedom of thought. this is the whole thing about the formation of this government. i -- i -- somehow in the last few years it has come to me, the basic
philosophy of our founders, they believe there was such a thing as objective truth. right toe speech, the assemble, debate. they had speech on the floor of the congress. trialshole idea injury where you cross examine witnesses, you get to call witnesses, the jury sits there will stop to figure out what the truth is. justnder a true and verdict. the same thing was supposed to happen in congress. congress would debate. the truth would arise. you should do the right thing. it is the whole foundation of the american republic, if you want to know the truth. thentire rejection of autocratic kingship dominated that many of them had come from. so we cannot have deliberative government without freedom of thought.
we cannot have freedom of thought without freedom of religion. the father of our constitution, james madison, put it this way -- freedom of speech is the only effectual guardian of every if we cannot speak freely, we cannot exercise our other rights either. if you can control and dominate the way people talk, then you can control the way people think. that is not the american tradition. [applause] a.g. sessions: if not, i have to thatyou, i am surprised some people want to control the way we think and talk. our founders had a deep understanding of human nature. they foresaw that this would be a problem. that people in power would want to block those out of power, and
to contain them because they did not want criticism. they did not want anybody to challenge what they are doing. officials, powerful people in government instinctively tend to do. theythink they are right, think other people are wrong and they don't like hearing criticism. this is america, right? we have the right to criticize. [applause] senatorsions: mcconnell, lesbian a great champion of free speech in america, -- senator mcconnell, been a great champion of free speech in america, he said the incumbent, when they pass a campaign bill, finance bill, or some other bill, it is always protect the incumbent. these are the people who pass it. when the dust settles it
strengthens the incumbent. believe in.what we given unfair advantage to people in office. defend the robust protections of the constitution. freedom of speech is precious and it is rare in the world. i have been around the world and stash as a member of the armed services committee for years. we tried so hard to get other countries in the world to adopt our constitutional order. to speak, debate, follow the rules and have an independent court system and accept rulings whether we like them or not. that kind of tradition is so not out, but it is there. it is not so valuable in the world today. it is not hard to achieve. only a few countries have ever achieved what we have been able to achieve here today. i believe that we have a responsibility to honor our
constitution. incredibly important document. we have the longest existing constitution in the world. no country has been able to maintain a stable government on the one -- under one existing constitution. nothing like as long as we have been able to do so. tohave a responsibility honor, to preserve this heritage. it is a conservative thing, friends. it is conservative to be cautious and careful. to say, "my goodness, we have a wonderful constitution." [applause] a.g. sessions: it has protected us. very few people in the world have anything like this. we have got to defend it and the heritage and the freedom and the prosperity and has brought forth for us. president trump's strong leadership.
the department of justice is doing its part to protect the republic and protecting the right of speech and debate. [applause] we are going to court. we are going to court to protect students around america, and we are winning court cases. the university of california -- californiaedly berkeley, and allegedly had a been to apeakers conservative groups. they appear to have almost complete discretion over the time, the places and conditions for hosting campus speakers. that discretion of allowed them to have apply different rules to arbitrarypeople in an way. a group of students argued that that is precisely what the university did, they alleged
that by placing unrealistic burdens on conservative speakers and not on others, the school effectively discriminated against them, made it impossible for them to speak, but all on our college campuses must have a right to speak. last march a student filed a lawsuit against pierce college in los angeles, alleging that it prohibited him from distributing copies of the constitution. outside the designated free-speech zone on pierce college. how big was this free-speech zone? sizequare feet, barely the of a couple of college dorm rooms. outside that space, students did not have freedom of speech. the student sued and we joined the lawsuit on his behalf. alleged limited
speech to 15th 1000 of a percent to the campus. students could not speak freely. students had to get permission from campus officials in advance. they could only use their free-speech zone at a specified date and time. they could not say things that " might disturb the comfort of persons." have you ever had people disturb your comfort? you have to take rolaids watching some of these things. we are not entitled to be rejected from discomfort, give me a break. under a system like that nobody can stop anybody else from speaking their minds merely by acting offended. anybody can do that. they can't speak anymore. it does not matter how reasonable, health -- reasonable, how true that speech may be. if somebody does not like it
than it is for bid and? is that our -- for bid and -- forbidden? is that our policy in this country? encouraging people to drown out opinions that they do not agree is bad for the speakers and it is bad for speakers. in these cases the courts have a number of times attempt to dismiss two of these cases, that i have mentioned where we have joined in to complain, have been denied by judges to have adopted justice department positions. .he decision is still pending at the end of may we filed a statement of interest in a lawsuit against the university of michigan over their speech codes. the university forbids harassment, bullying, acts motivated by bias, they also for
speechech -- forbid that is demeaning, bother some or hurtful. these are not legal terms, who knows what that means. it means administration can ban any speech they don't like or that somebody else does not like. that cannot be the law in this country. [applause] who gets tos: define what these words mean? some unelected, unaccountable president making $1 million a year in salary? did you see that a college professor makes one million a year. that is more than coach sabin makes. goodness gracious. [laughter] a.g. sessions: the university of the most told stephen, " important indication of bias is your own feelings." this soundslike
nice but they are very easy to abuse. these rules are enforced by a group of campus bureaucrats and campus believes were the name of that response team. you who canlls speak of the university of michigan campus. or at least at the time. students can report complaints to the brt and they investigate them, or you. in the last school year brt logged more than 150 cases. we got involved in the lawsuit against the university and i am pleased to note that the university reevaluated what they were doing and what was in that policy and they have changed and made its substantial he -- substantially better. [applause] we will keep: getting involved. we will keep holding public
institutions accountable. i believe our work is having an impact. pets are right i mentioned a moment ago when the foundation for individual rights in education show that the percentage of schools with speech code has declined since last year. from 40% to 32%. that is pretty good. it is not enough. we are going to continue to work to bring that number down. we have got to challenge this idea. the board of trustees and university leaders are confronted with a stark reality of what is being done in their name, i think we will continue to see progress. this is not justify what has been happening. we are reaching a historic moment, after more than two centuries of defending the right to speak freely. , they on the hard left have openly and systematically justified action to deny americansthe root --
the right to speak in mind. donald trump does not believe anybody can tell him how to speak. isn't that true? [applause] a.g. sessions: i think president trump is -- one of the things that people liked about him was his willingness to just stand in there and express views that he thought were thinks is right. we have to stand up to the challenge and we will do so resolutely, as i hope you will. this is truly a mainstream defense against a radical, a historical, unconstitutional threat. in ae defending, mainstream way, american values that 20 years ago would not have been thought possible. it is time to put a stake in its heart. justice cannotof do it alone. we will need your help and the help of others. i hope you will continue to get involved.
learn how to defend the legal traditions of our country. they are so unique, so valuable and can be fragile. they can be. history tells us that countries are not always able to sustain great achievements that they may have had in the past. learn about your constitution. speak the truth, and there is truth. the american belief, there is truth, there are things that are right and wrong. unpopular, stand up for what you believe and lead for -- lead by example. to people have the right speak freely, even inaccurately or without full understanding, people have a right to speak and axpress themselves, wise and mature citizen should seek to be accurate, truthful and responsible in your debating activities.
there is no more important time to be in the trenches in these battles, than when on the defense. when the enemy is charging at you, it is especially important when you are defending a position that may be unfashionable and to maintain the highest degree of accuracy. that is your challenge and that is what i would urge you to do. this is the way you establish credibility, gain respect, and frankly, it it is easier to tell the truth. clear and consistent pounding away, advocating truthful position, usually almost always will produce fish -- will produce victory if you can maintain and be resolute. continue to get involved. you can be certain about this. we will keep fighting with you and for you. i believe we will keep on winning. and i
wish you a great time. god bless you. [applause] a.g. sessions: thank you.
♪ [sweet home alabama] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] sunday night on q&a, constitutional lawyer david stewart on his book "in peach: the trial of president andrew johnson in the fight for lincoln's legacy." is a scandal. the chapter on johnson i will not speak beyond that. it should be expunged them every library in the country. theas credited with casting single vote that save johnson's tail. it caused rosses
vote the most heroic moment in american history.
i think his vote was purchased. johnson was not a heroic moment. david stewart sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span q&a -- c-span's q&a. your primary source for campaigns 2018, we will show you to recent congressional debates from illinois and virginia. then the new chair and president of the miss america organization discusses changes to this year's miss america competition. the midterm elections, republican representative is term -- seeking a seventh in illinois six congressional district. he faces democratic challenger onn in a debate that focuses the economy, abortion, gun rights on the russia investigation among other topics. this is just under one hour.