Pulitzer Prize-winning author serves as a keynote speaker for Constitution Day forum

Mirta Ojito joined a panel of local journalists to discuss the First Amendment Thursday.


(from left) Rick Christie, Mirta Ojito, Eric Roby and Kevin Wagner adress the crowd during the Robert J. Bailyn Symposium on the First Amendment Thursday. Ryan Lynch | Editor in Chief

Joe Pye, News Editor


On Thursday, Florida Atlantic alumna and journalist Mirta Ojito spoke on immigration, the election and the First Amendment at the fourth annual Robert J. Bailyn Symposium on the First Amendment as the keynote speaker.

The symposium took place in the Democracy Plaza behind the Culture and Society building and was sponsored by FAU’s Jack Miller Forum — a civic education advisory committee. It was one of several leading up to Constitution Day, a federal observance that highlights the day the U.S. Constitution was adopted, as well as those who have gained U.S. citizenship.

Ojito — a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and the director of news standards at Telemundo — spoke about her experiences with the First Amendment while writing two books that dealt with the topic of immigration.

Palm Beach Post editor Rick Christie, CBS 12 News anchor Eric Roby and associate professor and director of the Jack Miller Forum Kevin Wagner later joined Ojito for a panel discussion in front of a crowd of roughly 150 people. The event was moderated by the founding director of the School of Communication and Multimedia Studies, Susan Reilly.     

The panel covered several subjects regarding the First Amendment — including whether hate speech in the 2016 presidential election is having negative effects on society.  

“The current election is drawing fear out of young minority children due to rhetoric used by Donald Trump,” said Ojito. “Muslim children are being called terrorists and ISIS.”

One student asked Ojito if she felt that presidential candidate Donald Trump’s speeches should be censored.

“No, I don’t believe words should be censored, words are legal,” she said. “I think if we change our words, we will see the world in a different way.”

One student in the audience questioned what Ojito’s speech on Trump’s rhetoric had to do with Constitution Day when Wagner answered, “The First Amendment is in the Constitution.”

The other panelists discussed how social media has made it easier for people to express their opinions — whether they’re positive or negative — on current news stories.

“There was a headline today of a Muslim mosque that burned down in Fort Pierce,” said Roby. “On the CBS 12 social media page, people were writing terrible things, saying to finish the job, burn it down.”

Another student asked the panel if they felt these discussions were effective at teaching the audience about the current state of affairs.

Ojito responded, saying, “You can tell me when you graduate. I hope something we say will stay with you, otherwise we wouldn’t do this.”

Joe Pye is the news editor of the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @Jpeg3189.