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Robert Azzi's efforts to increase understanding of Muslims make him 1st Amendment honoree

Staff Report
September 30. 2018 9:39PM
Robert Azzi listens to an audience member who said the Bible and Quran both have deficiencies during "Ask a Muslim Anything" at Durham Public Library. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Correspondent)



MANCHESTER — Robert Azzi, who has spoken throughout New Hampshire and beyond to promote civility and public awareness about Muslims and America, is the 2018 Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications’ First Amendment Award recipient.

The Exeter resident will be recognized at the school’s 16th annual honors event on Nov. 15 at the Palace Theatre.

The featured speaker — a week after the nation’s mid-term elections — is outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who competed for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 and may do so again.

Azzi is a photojournalist, columnist, public speaker, and education consultant. His columns appear in many New Hampshire publications.

He has presented his program, “Ask a Muslim Anything,” at more than 50 public events and forums around the state, where he works to encourage tolerance, understanding and interfaith discussion.

“I want to open up new perspectives for my audiences, especially for those who don’t often agree with me, and expose them to points of view I believe are important and which they might not have previously considered,” he has said.

In choosing him, the Loeb School First Amendment Award judges cited Azzi’s “courage and his vocal, forthright and honest” presentations about what it’s like being Muslim in post-9/11 America.

Azzi was chosen from nominees submitted by the public.

The First Amendment event is the only fundraiser for the nonprofit school, founded in 1999 by Nackey S. Loeb, the late president and publisher of the Union Leader and Sunday News. It offers free classes and low-cost workshops and its students range from middle-schoolers to retirees. Instructors from media outlets and businesses around the state teach topics such as the First Amendment, journalism, photography, broadcasting, audio and video production, social media and public speaking.

Tickets for the event are available at www.palacetheatre.org or the box office at (603) 668-5588.

The event has attracted many distinguished speakers, including the late U.S. Sen. John McCain and NBC Meet the Press host Tim Russert. Vice President Joe Biden was one year’s speaker, as was now-President Donald J. Trump.

First Amendment Award recipients have included slain journalist James Foley from New Hampshire, former state Attorney General Philip McLaughlin, former Keene Sentinel Executive Editor Thomas Kearney, The Laconia Citizen, former legislator Daniel Hughes, former Dover City Councilor David Scott, Londonderry High School Journalism Adviser Mary Lukas, First Amendment attorney William Chapman, ConVal School Board member Gail Pierson Cromwell, The Portsmouth Herald, David Lang and the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, and others.

Previous recipients John Howe and Mary Lukas are First Amendment Award judges, along with retired New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice Richard Galway, retired Foster’s Daily Democrat Editor Rod Doherty and First Amendment attorney Gregory Sullivan.

The event’s lead sponsor is People’s United Bank and the growing list of sponsors and supporters includes: Eversource Energy, The Brodsky Prize, AutoFair, AT&T, Brady Sullivan Properties, McLane Middleton, The Common Man Family of Restaurants and U.S. Trust.

Other sponsors are: Consolidated Communications; Elliot Health System; Joseph and Signe McQuaid, Silvertech; BAE; Citizens Bank, Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Fidelity Investments, Daniel and Carol Hughes, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Services University; Merchants Automotive Group; Amoskeag Beverages; Anagnost Investments; Bar Harbor Bank & Trust; Bellwether Community Credit Union; Joyce and Daniel Levesque; Sean and Kirsten Mahoney; NH Beverage Association; NH Healthy Families; Northeast Delta Dental; St. Mary’s Bank; Union Leader Corp.; AARP; Bernstein Shur Group; Business and Industry Association; Douglas, Leonard & Garvey; New Hampshire College and University Council; Howe, Riley and Howe; Keystone Press.

Media partners are the New Hampshire Union Leader, WMUR-TV and WGIR.

For other information about the event, visit www.loebschool.org or call 627-0005.


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