By: Randolph May
Who or what inspired you to work in public service?
I think as far back as high school, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer because I had in mind that lawyers played a key role in shaping public policy, and I wanted to be part of that. Certainly, the years I spent at the Federal Communications Commission as Assistant General Counsel and then Associate General Counsel proved that to be true. And the same has been true even in private practice, and since 2006, as Founder and President of the Free State Foundation, a Section 501(c)(3) non-profit think tank focusing on communications and Internet law and policy and intellectual property issues.
What is something you are excited about right now?
Personally, I’m worried about the extent to which the Cancel Culture is shrinking the space in which the public can freely debate important matters of public concern, including public servants. So, right now, I’m excited about trying to figure out how to address this problem. Among other things, I’ve begun exploring the Cancel Culture phenomenon in a series of Free State Foundation papers called, “Thinking Clearly About Speaking Freely.” The notion of free speech is central to our Constitutional Culture. So, one way to combat the Cancel Culture is to do a better job of education — at all levels throughout society — regarding our Constitutional Culture.
What is your favorite class you have ever taught or took and why?
My favorite class ever was Constitutional Law at Duke Law School. Aside from delving so much more deeply than I ever had before in the Constitution, my professor, William Van Alstyne, was brilliant.
What inspires you during these challenging times?
Knowing that, with all of its faults, America is always a work in progress on the road to forming, in the words of the Constitution’s Preamble, a “more perfect Union.” The public policy work we do at the Free State Foundation, the think tank which I lead as President, is intended to contribute to our country’s ongoing progress. That challenge is enough to keep me inspired every day.
What advice can you give to folks beginning careers in public service?
Don’t get frustrated with a short-term view. Often matters are more complicated than they seem, especially when you haven’t had much experience. Keep looking ahead!
If you could witness any historical event, what would you want to see?
The signing of the Declaration of Independence. Despite the reality that the Declaration didn’t address America’s original sin, slavery, it nevertheless expresses America’s highest ideals. And the foundational principles and ideals embodied in the Declaration are what we, as citizens, must aspire to make real.
Do you have a favorite podcast, journal, newspaper, or other kind of media?
My favorite newspaper is the Wall Street Journal.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best piece of advice I ever received was to be willing to try new career moves. For me, that’s meant happy and productive times spent in government service, private law practice, and in the think tank world