David Cole.jpg

FREE SPEECH 63: The ACLU's Defense of Liberty, with David Cole

 "Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it." This famous quote by legal scholar and Judge Learned Hand is often cited by David Cole, Legal Director of the ACLU and Professor at Georgetown Law School. It means that liberty is something people have to truly want and exercise themselves -- and that the ACLU, for instance, wants to create the space for individuals to exercise this privilege without interference from courts, laws, and constitutions.

The ACLU defends your liberties - whether you're on the right, the left, and entirely off the political spectrum. The 100-year old organization has argued and won landmark decisions before the Supreme Court and assisted countless citizens to obtain or keep their liberties. After the terrible events in Charlottesville in summer 2017, the organization's non-partisan agenda was widely discussed. Is it right to put principle above all other consideration and offer legal aid to Neo-Nazis? Or are there factors beyond the ideals of the law that inform such actions?

David Cole, National Director of the ACLU took an hour out of his non-stop schedule to speak to me about the ACLU's commitment to civil liberties, free speech in particular, and about the best ways to ensure that our personal civil liberties are best defended today, during the Trump presidency. He is the ACLU's national legal director where he directs a program that includes approximately 1,400 state and federal lawsuits on a broad range of civil liberties issues and Hon. George J. Mitchell Professor of Law at Georgetown University. He is the author of several books, including Leading in the Age of Innovations: Change of Values and Approaches, Engines of Liberty, and Torture Memos: Rationalizing the Unthinkable.