Each summer, The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) and the Office of Senator Rand Paul host the Capitol Hill Lecture Series, an inspiring series of talks featuring courageous thought leaders who challenge the status quo to uncover the truth behind complex issues. Sponsored by the Einhorn Family Foundation, this is the 11th year of the Capitol Hill Lecture Series. This series attracts 1,500 young leaders each year and puts young people face-to-face with prominent leaders advancing the cause for freedom.
The subject of this summer’s lecture series is Courageous Leaders: Challenging the Status Quo. In focusing on this specific theme, TFAS students and other D.C. interns are encouraged to ponder what it means to lead courageously.
Graham Hunt ’23, an Augustana College student participating in TFAS’s Leadership + the American Presidency program track, described his definition of a courageous leader after attending one of the lectures.
“I think a courageous leader is that person who wants to get something done, who is there to help serve their constituents, serve their team, and who is not driven by another agenda or just [driven to] make the news headlines.”
I think a courageous leader is that person who…is there to serve their constituents, serve their team, and who is not driven by another agenda or just [driven to] make the news headlines.” – Graham Hunt ’23
This summer’s lineup features five brave individuals who have dared to do just that – serve the people around them instead of serving their own agendas. Matt Taibbi and John Tamny gave the first two lectures in June, which had an excellent turnout of 450 D.C. interns.
Both Taibbi and Tamny have a proven track record of defending the truth and standing up for what is right. They discussed hot-button issues at the forefront of many young Americans’ minds: censorship in social media. Taibbi shared about his involvement with the Twitter Files and Tamny discussed government censorship and TikTok.
With the rise of social media and technological advances in the 21st century, few topics prove more pressing today. Both guest speakers shared fascinating insights on the inner workings of these social media platforms and what happens behind the screens.
Matt Taibbi: The Twitter Files
Matt Taibbi, a journalist with more than 30 years of experience, was one of the few reporters that Elon Musk chose to disclose the “Twitter Files” to when he bought out Twitter. Taibbi took the students on a journey through what those documents revealed and explained how free speech is a key component of democracy that journalists have a responsibility to defend.
“Until recently, it was always understood that reporters were champions of free speech,” Taibbi said. “That was uncontroversial. It was understood implicitly that without free speech, there could be no democracy and that reporters needed to be on the front lines of that question because we were often the first affected.”
He highlighted the necessity of free speech in the media and the critical need for journalists to report the facts with transparency. Taibbi explained how government interference and censorship have escalated in the media in recent years, especially since the 2016 presidential election.
A TFAS student in the Business + Government Relations program track from Budapest, Hungary, Barna Péterfi ’23 reflected on Taibbi’s lecture and the importance of courage for journalists who want to stand up for what’s right and report the truth.
“It was very interesting for me to see how an independent journalist works,” he said. “It was nice to get an insight on how the Twitter Files were uncovered and the part independent journalists took in uncovering this story.”
Max Mallhi ’23, who currently interns for the Washington Examiner, wrote a report on the lecture that the Examiner published. He explained how Taibbi’s focus was on the concern that “many mainstream journalists do not want to shed light on the important issue of censorship of speech.”
“Americans do not know enough about how the government hides information from them, but it is now time that we address it,” he wrote.
Listen to the full lecture on YouTube.
John Tamny: TikTok and Government Censorship
John Tamny is an author, editor of RealClearMarkets, political economy editor at Forbes, and vice president at FreedomWorks. He joined TFAS and Sen. Paul on the Hill to discuss TikTok, free speech and government censorship. Tamny began by warning against the culture of pessimism that has become so popular on both sides of the political aisle, calling for renewed optimism among college students for the future of the U.S.
“Be optimistic about what’s ahead because there’s so much to be optimistic about,” he said. “99.9% of the world would give anything to be seated where you are. Never forget that. Be thankful every day for what you have, and don’t buy into the pessimism that’s so popular on both sides.”
99.9% of the world would give anything to be seated where you are. Never forget that. Be thankful every day for what you have, and don’t buy into the pessimism that’s so popular on both sides.” – John Tamny
He explained how a capitalist economic system promotes entrepreneurship, which necessarily involves optimism and growth. Furthermore, he used TikTok as an example of the benefits of capitalism through the constant improvement of technology, and he asserted that social media platforms are prime examples of free speech.
Watch the full lecture on YouTube.
Stay tuned in July for future lectures by courageous speakers: Sen. Rand Paul, Tulsi Gabbard and Dr. Marty Makary. Interns in the D.C. area may register for future Capitol Hill Lectures here.