Event—Public Programming

The 2017 Bughouse Square Debates

Free for All Fund

Free for All Fund

Free for All Fund

Environmental Encroachment Brass Band

Kevin Coval accepting the 2017 John Peter Altgeld Freedom of Speech Award

Darryl Holliday and Mary Wisniewski, 2017 Main Debate

Ada Cheng, 2017 Dill Pickle Award Soapbox Speaker

Soapbox speaker

At a time when political polarization is intensified by the extremes of digital discourse, the Bughouse Square Debates are a public forum where people can encounter new ideas and share their own—in person!

Join the Newberry for Chicago’s favorite free speech event! Bring your loudest heckling voice, mount the open soapbox, and exercise your First Amendment rights. Take it to the park this summer! And don’t miss the Newberry Book Fair before and/or after the Debates!

Download a PDF flyer for this event to post and distribute.


Noon: Entertainment

Environmental Encroachment Brass Band

1 pm: Welcome and Introduction to Bughouse Square

1:15 pm: Presentation of the 2017 John Peter Altgeld Freedom of Speech Award to Kevin Coval

1:30 pm Main Debate: What Constitutes Legitimate Journalism in a Hyper-Connected World?

What is "real" versus "fake" news? When is it acceptable to publish or broadcast an unsubstantiated report? What sources can be deemed reliable? How does crowd-sourcing fit into the equation? Should journalistic ethics and standards espoused by mainstream print and broadcast reporters and editors be revised, in the face of alternative media and the never-ending 24-hour news cycle? And if so, how?

2:15 pm: Musical Interlude

2:30 pm Soapbox Speeches and Open Soapbox

    • Rachel Cheeseman, "'Don't Worry Sean, No One Wants to Kill You': A Non-Apology"

    • Alex Mazarakos, “Is It OK to Punch a Nazi?”


    • Michael Burack, Medical Cannabis Now”

    • Ada Cheng, “Alien Forever?!: The Institutionalization of the Alien Status among Naturalized Citizens”

    • Geoffrey Cubbage, “Alternative Voices Have to Be”

    • Samantha Clark, “H. H. Holmes Never Opened a Hotel during the Chicago Worlds Fair”


    • Jim Leitzel, “Legal Recreational Cocaine”

    • Abhinav Gandhi, “When You Have to Pick a Starbucks Name for Yourself: Views from a Non-Immigrant Alien”

    • Duke-Pierce Reade, “A Time and a Place for the Sticky Wiki”

    • Rachel Goodstein, "More Tough Talk for the Toddling Town—An Ex-Pat's Powerful Prescription for Chicago's Persistent Pubescent Problems"

    • Come one, come all! The open soapbox will be available for airing grievances and spreading good news. Just show up and get in line! Back by popular demand, the Society of Smallness will return this year to curate the open soapbox.

3:30 pm: Musical Interlude while the Soapbox Judges make their decision

3:45 pm Dill Pickle Awarded to the Soapbox Champion

  • Dill Pickle Soapbox Champion: Ada Cheng
  • Runners-Up: Geoffrey Cubbage and Abhinav Gandhi

Food Trucks

Information Tables

  • Nearly two dozen local organizations and causes will set up information tables in the park, with volunteers to answer your questions. Would your organization like to be represented? Write to publicprograms@newberry.org.

Learn more about the history of Bughouse Square.

Supported by a grant from the Chicago Free for All Fund at the Chicago Community Trust.

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