Representative Liz Cheney visits NHIOP
By Kenneth Tran '23 | November 16, 2021
Last Tuesday, the New Hampshire Institute of Politics hosted the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communication’s yearly First Amendment Award Celebration, with Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming as the event's keynote speaker.
It was the Loeb School’s 18th ceremony, where the First Amendment Award “honors individuals or groups who have in some extraordinary way, exercised or sought to protect the Constitution’s First Amendment rights of free speech, assembly, press, religion, or government petition.”
This year, the First Amendment Award honorees were Tara Gunnigle and Jon Pearson, a couple from Webster, NH. In a town meeting, a topic was raised about laying gravel in a part of town, until the town treasurer, Bruce Johnson, said he purchased land from the town.
“He was the town treasurer. He can’t legally buy things over $200,” said Pearson in a video shown at the ceremony.
Johnson’s land purchase violated a law that stipulated public officials are “barred from certain private dealings.”
After hearing of Johnson’s purchase, Guniggle and Person filed several Right to Know requests, which are requests that guarantee public access to some documents controlled by the government.
“It opened up a whole new world to us. Getting more and more information,” said Guniggle, referring to the Right to Know laws that allowed them to obtain the documents that later had Johnson charged and fined $1,200.
“The First Amendment gives everyday Americans like us the power to stand up for our rights. Be it in a small town like ours, 1,800 people, or in large cities,” continued Gunnigle, after accepting the award. “It helps keep an eye on our elected and volunteer governments to keep them honest and for the people. Not for themselves.”
Rep. Liz Cheney spoke after Gunnigle and Pearson, thanking the couple before speaking about current politics and the Republican party.
“I’m especially pleased to be here and have the chance to talk about our Constitution and talk about the First Amendment,” Cheney said. “When I think about the First Amendment, the first thing that I think about is the history of this great nation.
“Our Founders provided that every elected official would swear an oath . . . to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, “continued Cheney. “Today, too many political leaders seem to have forgotten the sacred nature of that oath.”
Cheney rebuked former President Trump’s unproven claims of election fraud and the “political leaders who sit silent in the face of these false and dangerous claims.” Cheney is currently sitting on the Jan. 6 Committee investigating the Capitol riots and is one of ten Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for “incitement of insurrection.” After the impeachment vote, House Republicans voted to oust Cheney of her leadership position as conference chairwoman. Now, she is considered to be the face of the anti-Trump faction in the GOP.
Cheney focused on education, saying “We have to teach our children what is special about this nation,” and that “our children need to know that they are the citizens of the most powerful, good, and honorable nation in the history of mankind, the most exceptional nation,” echoing current political debate on public education.
Before leaving, Cheney told the audience, “America’s future and the future of freedom for all the world now depends on us.”