A Discussion with Professors Robert George and Cornel West

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A discussion about freedom of speech, freedom of thought, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the cancel culture with Professors Robert George of Princeton and Cornel West of Harvard:

In the aftermath of George Floyd's killing, the country is re-examining fundamental aspects both of our society and how we talk about changing it. In order to undertake that examination in a spirit of honesty and free inquiry, one view holds that participants need to feel free from the danger, and sometimes, as we have seen, the reality, of punishment or intimidation for taking an unpopular point of view. Those holding this view are concerned that we seem to be entering an era of enforced conformity to a new norm—that America is systemically racist, and that a failure to accept and acknowledge this fact is disqualifying from having a place in academia, in public life, or even in the private sector. They are concerned that the radical changes being called for ignore the pillars of the successful American experiment that ultimately led from slavery to the outlawing of racial segregation, and that these changes will do grave harm both to American society as a whole and to the radical changes’ intended beneficiaries.

On the other hand, some believe that our society is so inherently degraded by racism that a fundamental change is justified from the old ways of how we have felt we can think and speak about these issues. The thought is that the traditional notions of free speech and free thought are themselves devices that support oppression, and inevitably are employed to prop up  established practices and ways of thinking that have created, and perpetuate, racial inequity.  This view holds that those who have been harmed by  racism are only further harmed by a so-called “balanced” discussion of their grievances.

Professors George and West will address whether both society, and the ways in which we can discuss its virtues and its deficiencies, are in need of fundamental change.


  • Prof. Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University
  • Prof. Cornel West, Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy, Harvard University
  • Moderator: Mr. Eugene Meyer, President & CEO, The Federalist Society

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As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.