Mission Statement

As a non-partisan and non-sectarian consortium focused on the promotion of individual freedom, rights, and liberty in everyday life, the Institute for Liberal Values provides the skills and support required to build community where there has been division, encourage free expression where there has been censorship, and foster optimism where there is fear.

Many of us started our personal missions to support liberal values after facing illiberal threats to our individuality and individual freedoms and seeking guidance and help from Counterweight. The networks we created offered us refuge and a community that inspired us to carry on the work Counterweight started: to promote diversity without division, collaboration without chaos, and conversation without constraint. In essence, we are an assembly of dissidents who believe that authoritarian and illiberal trends, no matter their origin – right, left, top, bottom or anywhere in between – threaten the fundamental values of a pluralistic democracy.

It is our aim to share rich educational resources that reinforce liberal values as the bedrock of a flourishing and dignified society by creating our own materials, and by partnering with other organizations that defend similar values. We all approach liberalism from our own unique perspectives, but we believe that together our work and complementary objectives will provide a platform for fellow dissidents to find meaningful ways to center individual rights, freedom and liberty, and to elevate pluralism over polarization.

OUR LEADERSHIP

Board of Directors

Jennifer Richmond

Jennifer Richmond

Board Member

Jennifer Richmond, an International Relations Specialist, supports liberalism and universal values and believes that we are at our best when protecting individual rights and freedoms. She worked in international relations for over 20 years, focusing on global geopolitics, intelligence, and East Asian policy, before turning her attention and cross-cultural skills towards the most polarizing issues within the United States and beyond. She is dedicated to learning how to communicate on difficult and polarizing issues, in good faith, to develop citizens (and herself) in building a strong and diverse community for democracy to thrive. Jen and co-author W.F. Twyman, Jr. have recently released their book – Letters in Black & White: A New Correspondence on Race in America.

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David Bernstein

David Bernstein

Board Member

A passionate advocate of the free expression of ideas, Bernstein is the President and Founder of the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values and the past President and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and former executive director of the David Project.  He is the author of “Woke Antisemitism: How a Progressive Ideology Harms Jews.”

Jason Littlefield

Jason Littlefield

Board Member

Jason Littlefield is a lifelong learner and longtime educator. In 2021 he left public education after 21 years because his job (SEL Specialist) evolved to advance an ideology rather than enhance the human experience and condition. He now promotes Empowered Humanity Theory to schools, workplaces and communities that seek to build empowering and dignified communities. In addition to serving as a Board Director at ILV, Jason is also a co-founder and board member of Free Black Thought and a Director, the host of the Reformation Radio podcast and the Executive Director of Empowered Pathways.

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Erec Smith

Erec Smith

Board Member

Erec Smith is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric at York College of Pennsylvania. Although he has eclectic scholarly interests, Smith’s primary work focuses on the rhetorics of anti-racist activism, theory, and pedagogy. He is the president of the Foundation for Free Black Thought. Smith’s recent books include A Critique of Anti-Racism in Rhetoric and Composition: The Semblance of Empowerment(2020) and The Lure of Disempowerment: Reclaiming Agency in the Age of CRT(2022)He tweets here.

Zander Keig

Zander Keig

Board Member

Zander Keig is an award-winning Licensed Clinical Social Worker, anthology editor, transgender social care advocate, and a sought-after emotional, mental, spiritual, and social fitness consultant, facilitator, coach, and speaker. More about Zander is available here.

Fellows

Mike Burke

Mike Burke

Fellow

Mike Burke is an academic from England whose research and consulting interests include education, political philosophy, and ideology. His present research focus is on Critical Social Justice (CSJ) ideology and the advantages and challenges it poses to the national security of the United Kingdom and other liberal democracies, by extension. He has also written on and maintains an interest in Islamism and contemporary far-right thinking. Mike is one of the hosts for the Institute for Liberal Values podcast, The Dissidents.

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Brian Russell Graham

Brian Russell Graham

Fellow

Brian Russell Graham is a Fellow at the Institute for Liberal Values. He is a two-time graduate of the University of Glasgow, where he completed an M.A. and PhD in English Literature. His first monograph, The Necessary Unity of Opposites, published by University of Toronto Press in 2011, is a study of Northrop Frye, particularly Frye’s dialectical thinking. His second and third monographs – On a Common Culture and Speech Acts in Blake’s Milton – were published in 2022. In addition to his scholarly work, he has also published slow journalism in publications such as Quillette, Areo and Merion West, amongst others. Brian teaches the Liberal Bookshelf Courses on behalf of the Institute for Liberal Values.

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Elizabeth Spievak

Elizabeth Spievak

Fellow

Elizabeth Spievak, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology at Bridgewater State University where she also served for over 10 years as chair of the Institutional Review Board. A degree in quantitative business analysis and an MBA in decision sciences led to an early career in business and consulting, which informs her psychological research on narrative, attention, and decision making. When she is not engaged in compliance work, teaching, or managing her undergraduate research lab, Elizabeth is typically exercising, or engaged in collaborative projects, including co-hosting The Dissidents podcast.

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Advisors

Helen Pluckrose

Helen Pluckrose

Advisor

Helen Pluckrose is a left-wing liberal humanist author. She co-authored Cynical Theories, which traced the evolution of postmodern thought into Critical Social Justice scholarship and activism. The Counterweight Handbook is a practical guide to addressing CSJ in the workplace, universities and schools. The forthcoming Reformers, Revolutionaries and Reactionaries: Has Liberalism Failed or Are We Failing to be Liberal? looks at how to revitalize liberalism across the political spectrum. Helen argues that liberalism consists of a commitment to individual liberty (individualism), tolerance of difference (pluralism) and recognition of our common humanity (universalism), as well as a drive for reform over revolution or reactionism. Liberalism has ‘one simple principle’ to let people believe, speak and live as they see fit, provided they do no material harm to anyone else or deny them the same freedoms. The belief that all people have the same right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is, therefore, fundamentally liberal. Helen thinks it is clear that threats to freedom come not only from the state but from authoritarian ideologies, so liberal principles need to be protected not only in law but also valued in society. It is in everybody’s interests to uphold liberalism. Liberal conservatives, classical liberals, liberal lefties, liberal socialists, liberal Jews, liberal Christians, liberal Muslims, liberal feminists, liberal anti-racists, liberal LGBT activists and more can all work together against authoritarianism. Authoritarian versions of any of the above cannot. Helen thinks we should take advantage of that.

Ken Pope

Ken Pope

Advisor

Ken Pope is the Chief Executive Officer at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Previously he had a 34-year career in the U.S. Army, consulting industry and academia. While in uniform, he served in a variety of Armored Reconnaissance, Special Operations and Russian Foreign Area Officer (FAO) assignments in Europe, the Middle East, and Central America. He commanded an Armored Cavalry Troop during the Persian Gulf War and later a Special Operations unit focused on Central America. As an Army FAO he had a variety of assignments in Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Kosovo. In the consulting industry, he led teams that provided strategy, analysis and wargaming support to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also served as an Assistant Professor at the University of Mississippi where he taught courses on intelligence, advanced analytics, and led the program’s national security simulations with the U.S. Intelligence Community. He has a B.A. in Sociology, a M.A. in International Relations, is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and Staff College and the George C. Marshall Center’s Executive Program for Advanced Security Studies. His military awards include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and from the President of Estonia the Eagles Cross.

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Brandy Shufutinsky

Brandy Shufutinsky

Advisor

Brandy Shufutinsky is a social worker, writer, researcher, and advocate. She holds a Doctorate in Education from the University of San Francisco in International and Multicultural Education and her MSW from the University of Southern California. Dr. Shufutinsky has worked towards advancing the rights of victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault within the military community through practice, education, and research. She is the Director of Education and Community Engagement at the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values. Brandy was a 2021 Scholar-in-Residence at the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism & Policy Oxford Summer Institute, where she worked to develop curriculum in Critical Antisemitism Studies. Currently she is working towards developing intercultural and academic opportunities to enhance liberal democratic ideals.

Angel Eduardo

Angel Eduardo

Advisor

Angel Eduardo is a writer, musician, photographer, and designer based in New York City, best known for creating the rhetorical concept of star-manning—where we engage not only with the best version of our opponent’s argument, but also with the best version of our opponent. His writing has been featured in Quillette, Newsweek, Areo Magazine, and The Caribbean Writer, among other print and online publications. Through his work, Angel hopes to foster more productive conversations on the topics of the day, all bolstered by his own six words of advice: Be kind; we’re all first drafts.

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James Petts

James Petts

Advisor

James Petts is a barrister (the equivalent of a trial attorney) in London, England. He was called to the Bar in 2002 and has been practicing since 2005. In his professional life, he focuses on commercial and Chancery (property) cases, especially those involving an element of fraud or dishonesty. In his personal life, he enjoys baking, photography, computer programming and model railways. James has a passion for reason and reason-based ethics, and a strong dislike of abuses of power in any context. 

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Rio Veradonir

Rio Veradonir

Advisor

Rio Veradonir is a producer, writer, and community organizer. Rio is Assistant Director at The Bi Foundation, an endowed nonprofit that assists in academic and scientific research, engages in public outreach and education, produces and publishes original content, and provides tools for international community building. Rio is the creator and Editor-in-Chief of Queer Majority, an influential online magazine which takes a liberal (as opposed to critical) approach to LGBT and related issues. He’s also a producer at Bi.org, the world’s largest bi resource and Lead Organizer of amBi.org – an international social club with chapters on all six inhabited continents. An outspoken advocate for sexual and romantic liberty, Rio is both married to a woman (children’s lit. curator Talia Squires) and in a lifelong relationship with his boyfriend (activist and translator Damian Emba).  

Our partnERS

ILV partners with a variety of organizations who similarly seek to promote liberal values within their communities and networks. Like all who support liberalism, we don’t always agree (we often don’t even agree amongst ourselves), but we welcome civil disagreement, discussion, and partnership as a foundational liberal value in support of the marketplace of ideas. The views and opinions of our partners do not necessarily reflect the views and positions of ILV’s directors, advisors, fellows, friends, and sponsors. However, where we at ILV agree, is that we will work alongside both our partners and individuals in the promotion of liberal values and our mission to provide skills and support required to build community where there has been division, encourage free expression where there has been censorship and foster optimism where there is fear.

Coalition for Empowered Education

Queer Majority

Society for the Ethical Practice of Psychotherapy

Mutual Persuasion

EmpowerED Pathways

Free Black Thought

Alliance for Constructive Ethnic Studies

Jewish Institute for Liberal Values

1776 Forward

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