Gordon Smith Keynote at the 2013 NAB Show

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I was reminded of this last year when I accepted an invitation to deliver a keynote address to the International Association of Broadcasting, our colleagues in South America.

They asked me to speak to the issue of the broadcaster's role in preserving freedom of speech.

I was surprised by the suggested topic, because like many in the United States, I assumed it was a given, a fundamental human right everywhere.

But some nations in our Southern Hemisphere, I was reminded, are one election away from losing this precious freedom.

How to address this topic was made clear to me when I was given a tour of old Montevideo, Uruguay.

The ancient stone gateway to that city still stands after some 400 years.

It does so because of the keystone at the top of the structure that holds it all in place.

Take the keystone out and it all comes tumbling down.

Such is the role of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the freedom of speech and press contained in it.

The highest calling of broadcasting is to keep the keystone of freedom securely in place - the freedom of speech and of the press.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "Let the people know the facts and the country will be safe."

Whether it's news about a local election, providing critical information during a storm, or uncovering government corruption, broadcasters around the world are united in their mission to inform the public, no matter the cost.

I feel grateful and honored to defend this keystone as the head of NAB.

And it is my hope that all of you also approach your mission as broadcasters with a greater comprehension and appreciation for our highest purposes as public servants and as defenders of freedom.

I thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts with you today.

And thank you again for being at the NAB Show, where we have the opportunity to learn from each other and to remember the past and talk about the future.

I look forward to working closely with you as we continue down our path to success – meeting our challenges head on, and embracing the opportunities before us.

Thank you.

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