'Assault on the First Amendment' focus of Thursday event

Posted 9/6/22

The struggle to preserve the principles of the First Amendment will be the topic of the opening Bosworth Lecture to be held on Thursday, Sept 8, at 7 p.m. at the Rogers Free Library (Bristol). The …

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'Assault on the First Amendment' focus of Thursday event


The struggle to preserve the principles of the First Amendment will be the topic of the opening Bosworth Lecture to be held on Thursday, Sept 8, at 7 p.m. at the Rogers Free Library (Bristol). The event is free and open to the public.

Former Providence Journal Publisher Howard G. Sutton will open the 2022-23 lecture season with his talk, entitled “A Widening Gyre, The Assault on The First Amendment, and The Demise of Civil Discourse.”

“I will discuss the origins of the First Amendment,” Mr Sutton said, “and what it means in juxtaposition to how it is commonly misunderstood and abused in our current increasingly polarized society.

“For example, you may not smear people with absolute falsehoods,” he continued, “although this is now common among political leaders, so-called journalists, and on the campuses of prestigious universities.”

Mr Sutton noted that civility has largely disappeared in modern culture. “The idea of bearing no false witness against thy neighbor is becoming as defunct as love thy neighbor,” he said.

He stressed that the tenets of the First Amendment are crucial to sustain our republic. “Civil discourse in the public square has been the bedrock of our noble democratic experiment,” he said. “Mutual respect is essential to free speech.”

However, he raises the prospect that losing these freedoms is a growing reality. “Mutual respect has been eroded,” he said, “and one has to question if the center can hold with the present level of  vitriolic behavior.”

There will be an opportunity to ask questions of Mr Sutton, who said he also looks forward to a lively discussion regarding the diminishing role of journalism in our society. In 2020 Mr Sutton wrote a “My Turn” op-ed piece that appeared in the Providence Journal entitled “The Providence Journal has lost its soul.”

With The Providence Journal since 1973, he was publisher, president and CEO from 1999 to 2014. He was chairman of The Providence Journal Board of Directors from 2000 to 2008. Currently, he is president of Gipper Consulting LLC and the principal advisor for The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund.

Mr. Sutton is a past president of the New England Newspaper Association. He was chairman of the ABC Newspaper Committee and co-founder and treasurer of the Independent Newspaper Group.

He has an undergraduate degree in History from Notre Dame University, an M.B.A. from Providence College, and is a graduate of the Harvard Business School Program for Management Development.

In 2003 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration from Johnson Wales University, in 2008 an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Roger Williams University and in 2012 an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Salve Regina University, where he delivered the commencement speech.

He has been honored by numerous organizations including The American Heart Association, Leadership Rhode Island, Phoenix House, March of Dimes, United Way of Rhode Island, City Year R.I. and Boys Town. He has served on over 25 nonprofit boards.

A resident of Bristol with his wife Kim, he is president of The Stone Harbour Condominium Association.

The Roswell S. Bosworth, Jr. Lecture Series is presented by the Men’s Club, a Bristol organization that pays tribute to its founding member and former editor/publisher of the East Bay Newspapers with lectures of general interest.

Upcoming lectures:

  • Oct 13: RISD Prof Dennis Hlynsky presentation of his bird formation artwork.
  • Nov. 10: Portsmouth Abbey Brother Sixtus Roslevich on “The Warrior Saints” (at St Michael’s Church).

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.