Signs of the Times - John Grisham's Remarks at the Free Speech Monument Dedication
April 2006
First Amendment Monument Celebration: John Grisham's Remarks at the Free Speech Monument Dedication
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I'd like to apologize. I think I'm going to be the only male speaker today who's not wearing a necktie. And when I got dressed a few moments ago I thought about wearing one, which I rarely do, and I spent some time--I have a few of my own--I had one picked out, and I thought, no, Boyd Tinsley's going to be there, and Boyd is way too cool for a necktie. So in a few moments you'll see Boyd with a beautiful necktie on, and I'm wearing--the only one without one.

Oreana Fallaci is a well know Italian journalist and author. She's published about 15 books. She's currently lliving in New York City, and she's living there because she can't go back to Italy.

She cannot go back to Italy because if she goes she'll be arrested.

Her crime is that a few years ago she published a book that was critcal of the Islamic religion, which can be a crime in Italy and many other free and democratic countries. She has said that American writers are lucky, they don't have to put up with such nonsense, because they're protected by the First Amendment..

I cannot imagine an American writer worrying--or even thinking--about being arrested or facing criminal charges for criticizing a religion or a government or an institution or a person . It is inconceivable. We may worry about offending someone. We may worry about creating controversy. We may even worry about being sued, in a civil court, if we perhaps defame a real person.

But the notion of facing criminal charges brought by the state is so remote and absurd that it is unreal.

I have a good friend who lives in Rome, who is a writer and also a judge, and he is a great admirer of many aspects of our society and our culture. He loves America--not everything, but a lot. He is very passionate about the First Amendment to our Constitution. He has told me many times, You guys in America, you American writers, can write about anything without fear of retaliation or intimadation from the state. And he says, do you know how lucky you are?

And I say, well, sure, I know how lucky we are. But I really don't, we don't think about it. We tend to take it for granted. It comes so natural to all of us, the freedom of speech. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are so engrained in our beings, culture, our society, our institutions that we rarely stop and think about it. We all take them for granted, which is another danger.

Becasue of the purity and simplicity of the First Amendment, and because it has been protected by the courts for 200 years, I am able to write anything I want to write. I'm able to create dark fiendish plots about lawyers and judges and politicians and big firms in Washington without fear of anything happening. I'm able to criticize and satirize and even ridicule the FBI, the CIA, the Congress, the President. Because of the First Amendment I'm able to create characters and stories and plots without giving a thought as to how far I can go.

The beauty of the First Amendment is that its freedoms are virtually unlimited.

(April 20, 2006)

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