Serial's Sarah Koenig Says We Must Keep Selling Ideals Of First Amendment

Ethics, Awards,

Sarah Koenig

Sarah Koenig, host of the hit podcast, “Serial,” evoked her late father, a former advertising copywriter, during a speech accepting the RTDNA Foundation’s 2023 First Amendment Clarity Award.

“He is the first person I thought of when I got word of this award,” Koenig said. “I thought he'd be uncommonly proud of me. Words were his bread and his weapons and his pleasure. I never knew anyone as delighted by words as my father. His beacon, always, clarity. And cleverness, also, but never at the expense of clarity.”

Earlier in her career, Koenig said she might have been embarrassed to compare her work to advertising. Now, she said, she realizes that she sells ideas and tries to connect people to the truth without “boring them or bumming them out too much.”

“We all hope this exercise leads to social progress,” she said. “Mostly, it doesn't. Sometimes, it does. The thing that I fear most in our country is the death of certain principles, ordinary principles: honesty, fairness, tolerance, equality. When I was young, I thought they were solids, like columns of stone at the Lincoln Memorial. Now I know how ephemeral these principles are, more like holograms that only exist insofar as we're able to imagine them and sustain them and explain them with clarity.”

Watch her full speech below.

(Photo: Chorus Photography)