Speech Delivered by Nancy Q. Keefe, [retired] Editorial Page Editor & Columnist for the Journal News (daily newspaper for Westchester County, 2 June 1999, on the occasion of his receiving a Women-in-Communications Headliner Award.

Maurice J. (Mitch) Freedman: Women-in-Communications

Headliner Award

Librarians are among my favorite people in the world. They are the keepers of knowledge, presiders over the free universities that we can study at all our lives.

And among librarians is a man whom your program calls Maurice J. Freedman. I know him better as Mitch, and he made some headlines in the days when I was writing a newspaper column, because he is a special favorite of mine. One reason is that he flies in the face of stereotypes. He's a city kid, a first-generation American, who went across the Hudson to college and majored in philosophy.

Then he fetched up at Berkeley in the 1960s. For those of you who came in late, that was the place to be and the time to be there if you were young and idealistic.

Even though Mitch has told me his parents had very little formal education, his mother had veneration for education and the printed word. She had a sense of fairness with people and a respect for learning.

The apple does not fall far from the tree. So Mitch fit right in at Berkeley. He got his master's degree in library science there, added a doctorate from Rutgers in 1983 and he continues to push for the free flow of information.

Which is another reason I'm so fond of him. We share the notion that the First Amendment guarantees about freedom of expression in speech and print are terribly important.

The assault on the First Amendment is constant and comes in many nefarious forms. Self-appointed guardians of public virtue cloak their concerns in worries about what our children are Seeing and hearing, especially now on the Internet.

The corporate management of Toys 'R' Us, I have learned, has withdrawn its support from the American Library Association because, these toy geniuses say, libraries allow pornographic material on their shelves and into their computers.

Oh, dear. Libraries have still got a lot of educating to do. Mitch is out there doing it. He travels the world to advocate for libraries and access to information for all. This month South Africa. Last year Latvia. Before that Morocco.

Here at home he appears on panels and gives talks and wins recognition for displaying a consistent and outstanding courage and integrity in defense of the First Amendment.

He knows we have enough laws in place against soliciting children over the Internet, for example. The point is to enforce those laws, not try to make new ones that limit our precious freedoms.

Parents, not some holier-than-thou legislators, should be monitoring what their kids read and do, Mitch says.

It's for all that he does for Westchester libraries but especially for this kind of common-sense that I love this uncommon man. Mitch Freedman. Headliner.

Nancy Q. Keefe, Presenter