Free speech and the First Amendment will take center stage during Bethel College's Life Enrichment Series Oct. 18. 

Stephen Wolgast will present  "Free Speech in Times of Crisis"  at 10:30 a.m. in the Luyken Fine Arts Center.

"One of the jobs the press has is to hold a mirror to society," said Wolgast. "That's why we have to report on the failings of government and institutions, even if it upsets the powers that be. If the press can motivate people to act when things aren't going well, then by one measure the press has succeeded."

 Wolgast is an assistant professor of journalism and digital media at Kansas State University. He worked in newspaper journalism for 19 years, including 9 years as an editor at the New York Times. At the Times, he was a part of the newsroom efforts that were awarded the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for reporting on the 9/11 terrorist attacks and their aftermath.

The First Amendment grants U.S. citizens with the right to express their opinions, including times when society is under stress. History shows, however, that sometimes people in positions of authority actively work to close off public discussion. This presentation will look at the reasons free speech is protected and provide current examples of how people in authority dissuade the public from speaking up. Events of today can be connected to William Allen White's famous editorial, the work of Joseph Pulitzer, and the history of journalism in the United States.

"Free Speech in Times of Crisis" is part of The Pulitzer Project in Kansas: William Allen White and Freedom of Speech, a joint venture of the Kansas Humanities Council, the Pulitzer Prizes Board, and the Federation of State Humanities Councils in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prizes. The initiative seeks to illuminate the impact of journalism and the humanities on American life today, to imagine the future, and to inspire new generations to consider the values represented by the body of the Pulitzer Prize-winning work.

 Members of area communities are invited to attend the free program. Contact Bethel College at 283-2500 for more information. The program is made possible by the Kansas Humanities Council.