Bob Chatelle Introduces Harvey Silverglate at Ford Hall Forum

part of

Old South Meeting House, Boston

March 25, 1999

I would like to thank all of you for coming here tonight, and I'd like to thank Ford Hall Forum for inviting me to the Old South Meeting House -- a crucial site in the history of American liberty -- and for giving me the honor of introducing my good friend, Harvey Silverglate.

Most of you, I'm sure, are already familiar with Harvey Silverglate as Elsa Dorfman's husband. But Harvey is also an able and internationally known defense attorney, a journalist and book author, and an impassioned and brilliant defender of freedom -- especially freedom of conscience and freedom of expression.

Harvey was born in Brooklyn and graduated from high school in New Jersey. In 1964, he was graduated cum laude in history from Princeton and then took his law degree at Harvard. He began his practice working for Joseph Oteri as an Associate in the firm of Crane, Inker & Oteri. Since 1970 he has been a partner in several firms and for the past ten years has been a senior partner of Silverglate & Good. In 1971 he was admitted to the Bar of the United States Supreme Court, and has been admitted to the Bars of six Circuit Courts of Appeal, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, the US Court of Military Appeals, and others. He has taught law at Umass Boston and Harvard. He founded the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He's a former President and current Board Member of the ACLU of Massachusetts. Since 1976 his column "Freedom Watch" (formerly "Brief Cases) appeared first in The Real Paper and currently in The Boston Phoenix. He is also a regular columnist for the National Law Journal. And I am leaving out a great deal of his resume.

I emailed Harvey about what I might say during this introduction. He responded that if I couldn't think of anything else, I could always just say he was a good speller. His email, unfortunately, contained a spelling error. (In fairness, it was an obvious typo.) So I decided to try another approach.

For 14 years, my partner, Jim D'Entremont, and I were close neighbors of Harvey and Elsa in Cambridge. So naturally Harvey and I got to know each other over the internet. In 1990, Jim and I helped found the Boston Coalition for Freedom of Expression and early in 1992 I became Political Issues Chair for the National Writers Union, one of America's largest and most politically active writers organizations. My chief duty for the union was defending freedom of expression on its behalf. Mutual friends had introduced me to Harvey on one or two occasions. And I'd seen him around the neighborhood, sometimes walking down Putnam Avenue carrying a bouquet for Elsa. I eventually summoned up the courage to write to him for a little help, and he replied by email. He may regret this. Once I had Harvey's email address, I gave him no peace.

During my five years as Political Issues Chair, I became embroiled in many issues, including freedom of speech in cyberspace. But I found that I was spending most of my time defending both students and faculty members who were being silenced and harassed by the authoritarian ideologues who dictate permissible thought on our college campuses. Fortuitously, Harvey had also become embroiled in these same issues and (with his oldest and dearest friend, Alan Kors) was working on a book with the wonderful working title, Where the Water Buffalo Roam. That book was published last fall as The Shadow University. I don't like the title as well, but it's still a great book.

United by common goals and interests, our friendship began. Harvey and I don't have a lot in common. You can find pictures of both of us in the dictionary. For Harvey, look under Brooklyn Jew. For me, look under hick-town goy. I learned essential civil-libertarian principles from my Roman Catholic Republican grandmother. Some of Harvey's early mentors may have been Catholic. But I doubt any were Republican.

In spite of our cultural differences, Harvey and I discovered that we shared much in the ways of values. We worked together on such cases as the proposed University of Massachusetts speech code, the attempted silencing of a University of New Orleans professor with unpopular views on race and intelligence, and -- one of my favorites -- the shocking case of Miss Nude Santa Cruz. (Harvey discusses all of these in his book.)

Harvey and I both care passionately about freedom and justice. We believe in the power of reason. We care about those who are deprived of their rights and freedom by powers-that-be who consider some people expendable. We believe that freedom and justice are not divisible. An injustice to one is an injustice to all. When freedom is denied our adversaries, eventually we pay the price by losing our own.

While Harvey and I share values and concerns, we have our differences. I am a pessimist (or perhaps a realist); Harvey is an incurable optimist. Those of us who are pessimists desperately need to have optimists in our lives. Which is perhaps why Harvey has attracted so many of us as friends. He keeps us going.

Harvey is also much kinder that I am. It's somewhat ironic that Harvey so passionately defends the rights of those who say hateful things. Harvey seems constitutionally incapable of a hateful word or act. Harvey loves helping people, and the beneficiaries of his large and small acts of kindness and generosity are legion. Harvey gets along well with an incredible spectrum of human beings. I think it says a lot that his son's godmother is Andrea Dworkin. Harvey finds positive things to say about people that I would cross the street to avoid.

In the many years I've lived in the Boston area, I (like most of you) have read a great deal of rubbish in The Boston Globe. In one of the most ridiculous columns ever, a Globe writer some months ago accused Harvey of not having a heart. No person who knows Harvey could or would mouth such nonsense. But Globe columnists have something of a tradition of writing about events they do not attend and bad-mouthing people they do not know. I am privileged to know Harvey Silverglate. As an archtypical hick-town goy, I seldom feel confident in Yiddish. But there is a Yiddish word that I believe describes Harvey Silverglate -- and that is mensch.

So without further ado, I'm happy to present my good friend; Elsa's devoted husband; Isaac's doting father; courageous defender of the unpopular and falsely accused; mensch and civil libertarian extraordinaire -- Harvey Silverglate.

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