Summer news round-up: The brave WWII heroes, the Tiananmen legacy, and SCOTUS decisions

It’s summer! If you’re like me that means vacations, kids home from school, and general business that somehow surprises me every year. So I’ll keep this newsletter relatively short and focus on some recent anniversaries and developments in civil liberties.

Commemorating the battle that liberated Europe

We recently passed the anniversaries of two key events in World War II:

  • The evacuation of more than 338,000 Allied soldiers from Dunkirk, which ended on June 4, 1940
  • D-Day, which took place on June 6, 1944

My kids have had to hear me talking all week about how remarkable both events are and how easy they are to take for granted.

WWII veterans travel to Normandy every year for the anniversary of the D-Day invasion, which marked the start of the liberation of France, inspired hope and resilience in the face of overwhelming odds, and set the stage for the Allies’ eventual victory on the Western Front.

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the veterans and honored them with the Legion of Honor this year. As this year marks the 80th anniversary of D-Day, this will likely be the last major anniversary of the invasion that these aging veterans attend.

We throw around the word “hero” too freely in our culture. These are what true heroes look like and it will do your soul good to see them being honored like this.

In my last newsletter, I talked about how keeping our republic is the responsibility not of government, but average citizens like you and me. These men have done their part.

To rally Allied soldiers on the eve of the invasion, then-General Dwight Eisenhower distributed an Order of the Day, writing:

“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you… The free men of the world are marching together to Victory! I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!”

Their bravery – and the sacrifice of so many of their friends – came not with the certainty of their success, but the expectation that others would enjoy what they preserved. That’s the legacy that we have to live up to in our own effort to preserve liberty for those who will follow us.

A symbol of resistance in Beijing

The anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre (June 4, 1989) provides another example. The student-led demonstrations that year were met with a violent crackdown by the Chinese government that crushed the protests.

Estimates of those killed in the crackdown vary, in part because the Chinese government actively suppressed information.

To commemorate the anniversary, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) released a new video, featuring Zhou Fengsuo:

Zhou Fengsuo is a Chinese human rights activist who was one of the student leaders during the 1989 protests. He was listed fifth on China’s “most wanted list” and imprisoned for a year, and he eventually immigrated to the United States.

“Tiananmen is important because it’s hope,” Zhou says. “It was the moment that we realized, and the world witnessed, that Chinese people love freedom and democracy, and they are so willing to sacrifice their life for it.”

These anniversaries remind us of the terrible cost of totalitarianism – and the courage it takes to stand up to it.

Another significant moment in the fight to protect civil liberties

Shifting gears, I want to share a victory against government overreach that’s a little closer to home.

On May 30, the Supreme Court unanimously decided in NRA v. Vullo that the government cannot pressure private parties to suppress viewpoints that the government doesn’t like. (You may recognize the name of the case from previous newsletters by my colleague Cindy Crawford.)

This is an incredible win for the First Amendment, made even better by the fact that the decision was unanimous – and written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Want to learn more?

Last Wednesday, I moderated a panel about NRA v. Vullo for the Federalist Society, featuring folks from across the political spectrum:

  • Thomas Berry (Cato Institute Research Fellow, Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies)
  • Bob Corn-Revere (FIRE Chief Counsel)
  • Vera Eidelman (ACLU Staff Attorney, Speech, Technology, and Privacy Project)
  • John J. Vecchione (NCLA Alliance Senior Litigation Counsel)

You can watch the panel here:

And for more on how these important principles apply in other contexts – like government pressure on social media platforms – I highly recommend this new mini-documentary by the Federalist Society, featuring commentary from my friend Will Duffield at the Cato Institute.

I expect a lot of developments in the next couple of weeks in the fight to defend civil liberties. Thanks for joining us in that fight.


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