The most Important Right: Freedom of Speech

With the creation of an independent America in 1776, there was the creation and drafting of the United States constitution. The constitution is made up of three parts, the preamble, articles and amendments, and the major principles of government. In the first amendment, there are rights granted to American citizens, the most important of which is the freedom of speech. This freedom enables American citizens to be truly free. Without the freedom of speech, citizens would be deprived of all the other rights stated and granted to them in the first amendment of the constitution. They would not be able to have the freedom of press, the freedom to assemble and peaceably protest, or the freedom to petition the Government.

The fourth freedom mentioned in the first amendment is the freedom of press. This is the freedom of the American people to circulate opinions in the press, or in print, without the government being able to censor what they say. It was the censorship of press from England that inspired Congress to allow for freedom of press in America. This is because Congress and constitution drafters were already familiar with the defects of living under a government capable of censoring the press (Chafee).

In sight of the previous oppression that the English had encountered, drafters decided to provide the newly independent Americas printers with the ability to create what they wanted in the paper and spread it throughout their communities. Limiting the freedom of press would allow the government to have full control over what can and cannot be printed. To this day, the freedom of press serves as a watchdog for the people, exposing the excesses and failings of government (Freedom Of Press). With full power over the press, the government would have the ability to take what they wanted out of the press and, more likely than not, put what they wanted in.This would result in the press becoming a government run entity, for the government, rather than run by the people, and for the people. Without the freedom of speech, the freedom of press would be non-existent. Even with the freedom of press, the government would still have the ability to censor what is said and what is written about in the paper. Without freedom of speech, there is no freedom of press.

On January 21st, 2017, women across America took to the streets in mass numbers to protest for womens rights. They marched in advocacy for health care and immigration reform (Gale Student Resources in Context) as well as other prevalent issues they felt were present at the time in America. Without the freedom of the people to peaceably assemble, these women as well as other activists such as Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, and Jane Addams would not have had the ability to protest and strike against their governments and Unions in order to fight for what they believed in and what they felt they deserved to have whether it was suffrage, rights, and higher wages.

Students across America conducting walkouts and protesting gun laws would be silenced and unable to advocate for changes in their schools and local governments. An example of such would have been the March For Our Lives protest in which high school students advocating for gun control reform in the United States (Gale Student Resources in Context) took to the streets with parents and concerned adults nationwide in order to make a change.Without the freedom of speech, women, students, men, healthcare workers, union members, and all other citizens alike would not have the freedom to assemble and protest for change. Without the freedom of speech, the government would have the ability to shut down any assembly under grounds that the people were violating a law by using their voices so speak out and move against what the government had set in place. Without the freedom of speech, there would most likely be little to no change in the way our government conducted itself and treated its citizens.

One of the lesser known rights guaranteed in the first amendment is the freedom to petition the government. The freedom to petition allows the U.S. people to collect signatures in order to appeal to the government, or some other authority, for a particular cause. Today, there are multiple petition sites with ongoing petitions that trend in order to attempt to change the way entities within the U.S., including the government, function and handle themselves. One such site is Change.org, sites like this are dedicated to educating people about political concerns and offer those same people the chance to change the world around them. Those sites can even be used for general issues pertaining to businesses, the way an app may have changed, or to call attention to an injustice that has gone unnoticed and un-acted upon.

In the tangible world, citizens have the ability to circulate physical documents to obtain signatures in order to show the government that changed is desired. Before 1920, women had little to no voice in the government and relied strongly on petitions in order to provide a driving force for themselves and the suffrage movement. In 1864, the The Women’s National Loyal League provided Massachusetts Senator, Charles Sumner, with enormous rolls of paper containing 100,000 signatures (Sumner) to urge congress to emancipate all slaves. With this petition of 100,000 people, congress was provided with just a small outlook on the citizens that opposed slavery openly and voluntarily. Without the freedom of speech, these women, and other petition signers, would not have been able to express their opinions openly without fear of persecution from the very government which they wished and were attempting to change.

Without the freedom of speech, the government would have the ability to contest any speech, printed words, posters, graffiti, posters, billboards, advertisements, or political cartoons that they found offensive. In North Korea, The government restricts all civil and political liberties for its citizens, including freedom of expression, assembly, association, and religion (Human Rights in North Korea). The citizens appear to live under a repressive set of laws in which using their expression can result in their persecution and punishment. The freedom of speech is inherently attached to a persons right to express themselves. The lack of freedom of speech leads the ruling government to be a ruling and oppressive hand that has complete control over their citizens through fear.

Today in America, although the freedom of speech is not entirely infringed upon by the government, to some it is being violated by the very same people who the right is guaranteed to, American citizens. On some college campuses, speakers are being shut down and thrown out of their own events due to protesting by students who do not agree with the speakers agenda. In California, the University of Berkeley invited multiple speakers to their campus, the first of which was protested by a left-wing group called Antifa who cost the school nearly $100,000 in damage while pre-protesting a later-canceled talk by provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos (National Review). Another set of speakers invited to the school cost the school another $1.2 million dollars in security fees only to have one of the speakers actually perform his event only after threatening legal action at the proposed cancelling of his event. Although the freedom of speech is a right that all citizens wish to demonstrate, people need not only look towards the government for the censorship of the constitutional given right and they must be aware of what America would look like without it.

Many people take the freedom of speech for granted and do not realize what could entirely happen without it. Although the first amendment guarantees many rights, without the freedom of speech, many of those rights would be seemingly useless, and the American people would find themselves in an expressionless country void of shared opinions in the paper, gatherings of like-minded peoples in protest, and petitioning of the government for a better tomorrow. Citizens must be wary however, that they do not find themselves preventing other citizens from accessing their constitutional rights, that they are not shutting others down simply because they do not agree or do not wish to hear what they have to say. The freedom of speech is the most important right guaranteed in the first amendment, for without it, American people would be deprived of most of their other first amendment rights, and could find themselves in a much less free United States Of America.

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