The First Amendment helps to keep us free by giving us the right to disagree with anyone in America, including the President of the United States. Through the First Amendment, we have the opportunity to be ourselves. This Amendment gives us the power to hold accountable the most powerful man or woman in the nation. No other Amendment or constitutional safeguard would be important without the ability to speak freely to anyone. During slavery in early America, one of the most vexing problems African-Americans faced was they did not have the legal right to speak freely to White Americans without the fear of serious consequences, including death.
If we are to be really free, then we have to have the right to express ourselves. The First Amendment grants Americans the right to express themselves in all legal ways possible. Although the First Amendment does not give people the right to physically hurt one another, it does give people the right to respond to people who they feel have wronged them in some way, including the President and other powerful and influential people in America.
The First Amendment gives Americans the right to speak out against corruption, injustices, discrimination, racism, white supremacy, Jim and Jane Crow, sexism, bigotry, inequality, and much more. This Amendment allows those who have been historically invisible to be made visible. It has given the voiceless, powerless, and oppressed a reason to live and experience life to its fullest.
This Amendment was powerful enough to provide a man who would have once been considered property the freedom to express that he wanted to become President of the United States of America: Barack H. Obama. This Amendment gave us all a real voice!
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison
You say, “The First Amendment grants Americans the right to express themselves…” Actually, the government doesn’t “grant” us any of the unalienable rights. Traditional American philosophy teaches that an individual is endowed at birth with rights which are unalienable because they are given to them by his Creator. The 1st Amendment, and the remainder of the Bill of Rights, simply recognized some of those unalienable rights and protects them from encroachment by the government.
One of my heroes, James Madison, said, “The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.”
I know Madison had a very keen mind, because he also said, “All men having power ought to be mistrusted!”
If we citizens weren’t able to exercise our unalienable rights by speaking our minds, protesting injustices, openly investigating the powerful, printing the truth and freely voting, our Republic would have probably failed way back in Madison’s time.
Outstanding response, Goose! Your response is truly profound. Your response is certainly better than my post. Great insight and observation! Thank you!