The Richard D. McLellan Prizes in the Wall Street Journal

On Thursday, May 23rd, the Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed that former Michigan Governor John Engler and Kirk Center CEO Jeff Nelson wrote announcing a new Kirk Center initiative aimed at offering a constructive response to the free speech and academic freedom debates.

Justice Samuel Alito recently warned that freedom of speech on campuses and in many corridors of American society is imperiled. “Troubled waters are slamming against some of our most fundamental principles,” he said in a commencement address at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. “Support for freedom of speech is declining dangerously, especially where it should find deepest acceptance.”

Engler and Nelson call out in their op-ed the connection between self-government and free speech, and hold forth a more hopeful vision for the restoration of a traditional understanding of free speech and expression:

“Free speech is the healthy byproduct of America’s tradition of self-government. When such freedom is threatened, flashpoints of a larger social crisis emerge everywhere. This problem may seem irreversible, but it isn’t. Decorum and civility can coexist with robust free speech. We need fresh examples across academia, business, media, entertainment, and politics that are working to revitalize our culture and polity. We need educational leaders of integrity.”


In order to address the cultural pressures at odds with a traditional understanding of freedom of expression, the Russell Kirk Center has launched the Richard D. McLellan Prizes for Advancing Free Speech and Expression. Through these awards, we will recognize those who have given us insights in books, journalism, public advocacy, new media or creative arts each year.

The McLellan Prizes—one $50,000 award for exceptional work promoting free speech and two $12,500 research fellowships for scholars and writers—are meant to inspire people at all levels of American society to stand up for ordered liberty. The McLellan Prizes will support outstanding original work that asserts the enduring worth of our constitutional rights.

We are also proud to announce the inaugural jury for the McLellan Prizes. It includes people who, among their many accomplishments, have dedicated their lives to upholding free speech. They include former Gov. Mitch Daniels; prominent journalists and executives Susan Goldberg, Walter Hussman Jr., and Charles Overby; Federal Judges Michael McConnell and James Ho; as well as writers and scholars Jacob Mchangama, Nadine Strossen, Dr. James Stoner Jr., and Heather Mac Donald. It’s a distinguished panel of judges that will help the McLellan Prizes get off to a strong start.

We encourage the nomination of worthy candidates for either the main prize of $50,000 or journalists and scholars for summer research grants that will go a long way to contributing to our understanding of and appreciation for freedom of speech and our First Amendment freedoms. More information and the nomination form may be found on our website.

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