Each year, Civic Nebraska’s Strengthening Democracy Awards recognize Nebraskans who embody the spirit of a modern and robust democracy. Among our 2022 honorees are educators, administrators, students, and everyday Nebraskans. We’ll officially honor the winners on April 13, but before then, here’s a chance to learn a bit more about what makes them special.
Civic Nebraska honors Rick Galusha with the 2023 Civic Catalyst Award for being a champion of – and providing regular space for – civil discourse across political ideologies.
Rick, of Omaha, is the co-founder and principal leader of the Omaha Free Speech Society. Since 2016, the group has provided a monthly forum for constructive political discussion and debate in Nebraska’s largest city. The Society, which began in 2016, hosts informative gatherings on current issues and stands as one of Nebraska’s most inspiring institutions in promoting collective problem-solving at the expense of political infighting.
The Free Speech Society has grown to more than 500 members to inform and encourage civil debate and civic engagement. The group has engaged with hundreds of guests from across the political spectrum, including elected officials, media figures, small-business operators, citizens, media members, and scholars. These guests discussed the known – and often lesser-known – issues that affect the day-to-day lives of Nebraskans, including education, the Nebraska Legislature, civil rights, and more.
“Rick is a stalwart champion of ‘decent discourse,’ and he has worked hard to broaden the Society’s membership,” said Geitner Simmons of Nebraska U., one of five Nebraskans who nominated Rick. “The Society … stands as one of Nebraska’s most inspiring institutions in building healthy civic culture.”
Rick, a political scientist, also heads the Kirkpatrick Signature Series, a required course for undergraduate students at Bellevue University. The course examines America’s founding principles, including the deep study of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers. Rick applies these principles to contemporary issues such as the American family, racial and gender equality, free market economics, and immigration.
In addition, Rick writes a monthly column for the Omaha World-Herald, which melds the concepts of engaged citizenship and moderate politics with lyrics from classic rock songs. Rick also has taught a monthly civics class at Hill Crest Retirement Community and is a sought-after speaker for Omaha civic groups, religious organizations, and youth conferences.
“Rick’s passion for education and for the well-being of his community is evident,” said John “Buzz” Garlock, a nominator. “I cannot think of a person more deserving of this prestigious honor.”