Honoring America’s First Amendment Defenders

More than ever, our society and our democracy are in need of rigorous analysis and open debate of our policies, from immigration and mass incarceration to campus free speech zones and the relationship between the media and the government.  Americans’ First Amendment rights guarantee this, but these basic freedoms should never be taken for granted. Still today, over 230 years after the Constitution was adopted, Americans who stand up for these rights can find themselves under threat.

In 1979, I founded the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards to recognize individuals who have taken outstanding action to protect and enhance our First Amendment rights, and to raise awareness of continued threats to free speech and free press that still exist today. Over 150 free speech advocates have been recognized by The Foundation during our annual event.

On the 40th anniversary of the First Amendment Awards, I am proud to recognize this year’s awardees. Eight individuals will be recognized across six categories for the actions they have taken to ensure the First Amendment remains protected.

The 2020 honorees are:

  • Law: David E. McCraw, Deputy General Counsel of The New York Times
  • Book Publishing: Andrea L. Dennis, Author and John Byrd Martin Chair of Law, University of Georgia School of Law, and Erik Nielson, Author and Associate Professor of Liberal Arts, University of Richmond
  • Journalism: Omar Jimenez, Journalist and CNN Correspondent
  • Arts & Entertainment: Christina Clusiau & Shaul Schwarz, Documentary Filmmakers
  • Education: Michael Frazier, student, LGBTQ and First Amendment Rights Activist
  • Lifetime Achievement: Ira Glasser, Former Director of the ACLU

Free speech, free press, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion are cornerstone values of our democracy. Our honorees are brave defenders of our First Amendment who have fought to ensure violations to our rights do not go unchallenged and do not become commonplace, because without the First Amendment, there is no democracy. We are grateful for these everyday heroes.

-Christie Hefner, Founder and Chairman, The Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards