‘No Obstruction to Free Speech’ mobile displays ideas for democracy

‘No Obstruction to Free Speech’ mobile displays ideas for democracy

January 23, 2019
Sarah Freemanfreemans@uga.edu

Sixty-three wooden planks, lovingly hand-lettered, lacquered
and joined together in a web of carefully-placed, stainless steel eye and hook
screws…it’s a modestly-constructed mobile packed with powerful and inspiring
thoughts, all centered on First Amendment themes.

Drawing on a life-long appreciation of First Amendment principles,
Richard Griffiths translated his passion into art through the construction of
several mobiles that he named “No Obstruction to Free Speech.” One of these
mobiles was donated to Grady College and is displayed in the Grady College east
stairway on the 5th floor.

According to Griffiths, a long-time friend of Grady College
and a member of the Grady Board of Trust, his labor of love was motivated by
current events.

“I was frustrated by the way people were talking about free
speech and the media,” Griffiths, a recently-retired vice president and senior
editorial director at CNN, admitted. Griffiths also serves as the president of
the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.

Richard Griffiths created his mobiles at his home the North Carolina mountains.

To channel these frustrations, Griffiths took a few quotes
he was familiar with and started researching more, combing through speeches
from State of the Union addresses and foreign visits. What he ended up with
were quotes from every president, a few Supreme Court justices, one or two
founding fathers and a Georgia Supreme Court justice.

Some quotes are positive and some are negative, but they all
address government and freedoms of speech, expression, press and religion, while
giving context to the current tensions between President Trump and the news

Griffiths was surprised and encouraged about how many
presidents have commented on these issues.

“On a whole, support of freedom of speech and independence
comes through again and again from those who have held leadership positions,”
Griffiths said.

When asked for his favorite quotes, Griffiths has trouble
landing on just one.

He likes the quote that Richard Nixon said: “Don’t get the impression that you [the press] aroused my anger. You see,
one can only be angry with those he respects.”

And, and another favorite was George W. Bush: “’I consider
the media to be indispensable to democracy, that we need the media to hold
people like me to account.”

wanted to make sure the President Donald Trump’s quote was easily seen, so Griffiths put that at
the bottom of the mobile: ““The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it
is the enemy of the American People!”

This quote by President Donald Trump hangs at the bottom of the mobile.

Armed with the quotes, Griffiths spent weeks at his vacation
home in the mountains crafting his “tangle of thoughts and ideas for Democracy”
to construct something larger that would give hope to the current political
climate. The inspiration for his design was Man Ray Dadaist’s work
“Obstruction,” which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Of the four mobiles that he constructed, he donated one to
the University of North Carolina where he serves as the Stembler Distinguished
Visiting Professional; donated one to Grady College where he has served as a
Distinguished Industry Fellow at the Cox Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management
and Leadership; donated one to the Georgia First Amendment Foundation
auction and kept one for further reflection.

Griffiths said his project has given him some comfort about the how tension between the president and the media has resolved time and again: “It’s been therapeutic, and I realize through my research that the Republic has come out stronger…not without pain, but stronger.”