First Amendment Days

First Amendment Days Some Assembly Required graphic

First Amendment Days

Celebrate your First Amendment freedoms — religion, speech, press, assembly and petition — during First Amendment Days, April 12-16, 2021. The 2021 theme is “Some Assembly Required” with a special focus on protest. This year all events are virtual. See the complete schedule.

First Amendment Days is a weeklong celebration of our First Amendment freedoms – religion, speech, press, assembly, petition. A diverse assortment of speakers, events and activities are offered on campus every spring as a creative way to engage students and the entire Iowa State community to better understand the power of free expression. First Amendment Days is also designed to provide opportunities to exercise our five freedoms.

Now in its 19th year, First Amendment Days is the longest-running continual student-led First Amendment celebration at any university in the U.S. The celebration is organized by the First Amendment Committee, which is made up of members of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication and the Iowa State Daily Media Group.


Tune in for the 2021 Keynotes

Join us for three evening lectures with nationally recognized First Amendment experts. All lectures are virtual, free and open to the public. See the links below for more information about each event.

Gene Policinski, Robert Bickel

The First Amendment and the Civil Rights Movement:
Our History, Our Present, Our Future –
Gene Policinski and Robert Bickel

Monday, April 12, 5:30 p.m.

The era of the civil rights movement is as relevant today as when it was unfolding. Join Gene Policinski and Robert Bickel, two leading experts in the First Amendment and the Civil Rights movement as they discuss the immense potential and actual power of our First Amendment freedoms to fuel positive change in society.

Bonnie Siegler portrait

Signs of Resistance: A Visual History of Protest in America –
Bonnie Siegler

Tuesday, April 13, 7 p.m.

Bonnie Siegler, founder of the multi-disciplinary award-winning design studio Eight and a Half, showcases a collection of visual expressions of resistance throughout American history. In hundreds of iconic, smart, angry, clever, unforgettable images, Signs of Resistance chronicles what truly makes America great: citizens unafraid of speaking truth to power. Many of these images throughout our history are as relevant today as they were then. And like history itself, some offer hope, some will make us laugh and some will take our breath away.

Put what you learn into action the following day with our hands-on Signs of the Times Protest Art Workshop at 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 13.

headshot of Nadine Strossen

Hate: Why We Should Resist It With Free Speech, Not Censorship – Nadine Strossen

Wednesday, April 14, 7 p.m.

Nadine Strossen, a professor of constitutional law at New York Law School and the first woman national president of the American Civil Liberties Union (1991-2008) is a leading First Amendment and human rights advocate who argues that free speech, not censorship, is the best way to resist hate and promote other fundamental concerns, including equality, dignity, diversity, inclusivity, democracy and social harmony.




Thursday is Depth & Dialogue Day

Virtual sessions exploring various First Amendment topics will take place throughout the day Thursday, April 15. These sessions offer an opportunity to dive deeper into topics and situations related to the First Amendment and to discuss and ask questions.

Think Like a Journalist: Arrested on the Job – Andrea Sahouri

Thursday, April 15, noon to 1 p.m.

Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri was covering a Black Lives Matter protest last year when she was pepper sprayed in the face and arrested by a Des Moines police officer. Sahouri and others made it clear she was a journalist, but prosecutors refused to drop the charges. After a three-day jury trial, it took jurors less than two hours to acquit Sahouri of all charges. During this Depth & Dialogue session, Sahouri will share her harrowing story, talk about the importance of a free press and answer questions.

More Thursday sessions

11 to 11:50 a.m. Activism in the Music Industry: An ISCORE Encore Presentation – Durga V. Sritharan, Jasmine Tappin

1:10 to 2 p.m. A Protest is Worth 1,000 Pictures – Michael Englund

2:10 to 3 p.m. When Objectivity Stops – Will Fowler, 2:10 to 3 p.m.



First Amendment Workshop

The culmination of our weeklong First Amendment Days celebration is a one-, two-, or three-hour workshop designed to examine more deeply the challenges and opportunities provided by free expression. Led by First Amendment experts from the state, each 50-minutes session uses current events to engage a dialogue with national scholars. Free and open to the public, sign up for one, two or all three sessions.  

9 to 9:50 a.m. You Can’t Say That! Cancel Culture and the First Amendment

10 to 10:50 a.m. Free Assembly in a Time of Polarization

11 to 11:50 a.m. Making Free Speech an Ally on Campus



First Amendment Campus Collaborations

Monday Monologues: The Power of Peaceful Protest

Monday, April 12, noon to 12:40 p.m.

ISU community members recount their experiences assembling with others. Monday Monologues is a University Library-hosted performance series that spotlights Iowa State student and faculty voices.

Student Panel: First Amendment, Student Activism and Campus Climate

Tuesday, April 13, noon to 1 p.m.

Student activists have played an essential role in the call to action to improve campus climate. During this panel co-sponsored by Greenlee’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and First Amendment Committee, student activists, including leaders from Students Against Racism and the Iowa State Daily, will share their experiences in mobilizing others on campus to create change. They will also discuss the challenge of dealing with hateful speech and share ways more students can get involved.

Art of Resistance at Iowa State: A Virtual Exploration

Wednesday, April 14, noon to 1 p.m.

The First Amendment’s right to assemble and to petition is not the only path toward change. Art can be a highly effective form of resistance. In this First Amendment Day’s Depth and Dialogue, join the experts from University Museums on a virtual exploration of works of art on campus that seek to challenge the status quo. Questions from the audience will be encouraged.

Iowa State University Library First Amendment libguide

available all week

Want to study up on the First Amendment? Check out the extensive resources available in this Iowa State University Library First Amendment libguide curated by Charles Yier of the Iowa State University Library in conjunction with First Amendment Days.

Iowa State Daily – Letters to the Editor

available always

We encourage students to exercise their freedom of the press by writing letters to the editor to the Iowa State Daily and other news organizations. See the Iowa State Daily’s policy for letters to the editor.

Protest Music on 88.5 KURE

Friday, April 16, 3 to 6 p.m.

Student-run public radio station 88.5 KURE is airing 3 hours of protest-theme content. Tune in at 88.5 FM, with the MyState app or on KURE’s website at to listen to our DJs share the best of protest music and the history of protests in the United States.

Raise Your Voice: First Amendment Days High School Event

Friday, April 16, 1 to 1:45 p.m.

Discuss the power of social movements through youth free speech in America with Maribeth Romslo, the director and producer of “Raise Your Voice,” and First Amendment advocate Mary Beth Tinker. A free screening of “Raise Your Voice,” a film that spotlights student journalists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following the mass shooting at their school, is available April 7 through April 21. If you’d like to request a screening link to view the film, please contact Julie Roosa,  The link will also be shared with all who register for the Raise Your Voice: First Amendment Days High School session at 1 p.m. Friday, April 16.

First Amendment Pet Film Competition

In celebration of First Amendment Days (April 12-16, 2021), the First Amendment Committee is hosting a First Amendment Pet Film Competition. View the 10 finalists’ submissions, and vote for your favorite by April 9. Students were challenged to demonstrate one of the five freedoms protected by the First Amendment – speech, press, petition, assembly and religion — in a video that’s 60 seconds or less. The winners will be announced at the Pawsises awards presentation at 6 p.m. April 15.


students marching with flag of Iowa
Students march during the 2004 First Amendment Day celebration.

FAD Through the Years

The inaugural Iowa State University First Amendment Day celebration took place in 2003 and was organized by Mark Witherspoon, Iowa State Daily editorial adviser and former Greenlee faculty member. The Greenlee School has organized a celebration every year since. See how First Amendment Days has evolved through the years.


Event Contacts

  • Julie Roosa, adjunct assistant professor and First Amendment specialist, Greenlee School
  • Mark Witherspoon, editorial adviser, Iowa State Daily Media Group