Pell Center

The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina is a multidisciplinary research center focused at the intersection of politics, policies and ideas.

Suzanne Nossel on the Importance of Being Free to Read

Air Dates: February 12-18, 2024 

Free speech is under assault in educational settings, school committees, university boards and political rallies across the United States. Suzanne Nossel warns the danger isn’t just about our access to books and ideas, but to the fundamental human rights and political freedoms we all hold dear.  

Nossel currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of PEN America, the leading human rights and free expression organization, and the author of “Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All.” She is a leading voice on free expression issues globally, having overseen groundbreaking work in Hong Kong, China, Myanmar, Eurasia and the United States. Her prior career spanned government service and leadership roles in the corporate and nonprofit sectors. She served under Presidents Obama and Clinton as well as for Amnesty International USA, Bertelsmann, and the Wall Street Journal. Nossel is also a featured columnist for Foreign Policy magazine and has published op-eds in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, LA Times, and dozens of other outlets, as well as scholarly articles in Foreign Affairs, Dissent, Democracy, and other journals.  

On this episode of “Story in the Public Square,” Nossel sits down to discuss free speech in the United States, in light of a recent increase in the number of banned books across the country. She discusses the vital role books play in the education system and to individuals, stating that “to excise books to send the message that books are dangerous is, I think in itself, dangerous to the role of our public schools as an underpinning of democracy.” Nossel encourages the defense of all speech, including controversial speech, emphasizing that book banning is a practice that defies both domestic and internationally protected freedoms. She advocates for a world where everyone is able “to gain information, to follow their curiosity, to distill the truth, separate fact from falsehood and that depends on the freedom to speak, to write, to think as you see fit.” 

“Story in the Public Square” broadcasts each week on public television stations across the United States. A full listing of the national television distribution is available at this link. In Rhode Island and southeastern New England, the show is broadcast on Rhode Island PBS on Sundays at 11:00 a.m. and is rebroadcast Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. An audio version of the program airs Saturdays at 8:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. ET, Sundays at 4:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 9:30 p.m. ET on SiriusXM’s popular P.O.T.U.S. (Politics of the United States), channel 124. “Story in the Public Square” is a project of the Pell Center at Salve Regina University. The initiative aims to study, celebrate and tell stories that matter.