Excerpts from Collins &
Reception Speech at the Award
We are honored to receive this award in recognition
of The Trials of Lenny Bruce. There are many people here
tonight to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. First, we need to recognize
and thank them.
* * *
The one person whom we most miss tonight is, of
course, Lenny Bruce. That may be somewhat of a statement against
interest, since we would not be here but for Lenny’s sacrifice
as a First Amendment martyr. But we cannot help but wish that
Lenny were among us still, lampooning in his searing and satirical
way the free speech abuses recently committed by conservatives and
liberals alike. Where is he now, when we need him to mock truly
breathtaking examples of hypocrisy?
In times of national crisis, our expressive liberties are most endangered
precisely when they should be most engaged. Regrettably, our nation’s
leaders are all too willing to trade hard-won freedom for the illusion
Ladies and gentlemen, remember this: Fear is the first enemy of
freedom. All who struggle for liberty must be concerned whenever
our leaders and citizenry embrace a dangerous myth: that we can
preserve freedom by abandoning it.
We must, above all, create a culture of free speech. Such
a culture must defend the free speech principle in and outside of
our courtrooms and legislative chambers. It must:
encourage free thinking in the arts, and invite
free-spirited innovation in music;
promote expressive freedom on our airwaves
and in our classrooms;
bring a new measure of freedom to the Internet
and to those public fora where dissent is stifled every day.
In all of this, the patrons of this principle must support freedom
at every turn and in every venue.
If the First Amendment is the principle, then our
lives – like that of Lenny Bruce – must be the practice
that gives meaning to that great experiment that we call democracy.
Thank you for this honor.