Appreciation of Free Speech Must Be Cultivated Now

Anna Hoffman, Editor-In-Chief

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An amendment thrown around almost as much as the Second Amendment is the First Amendment. If anyone should know anything about the United States, it’s that this is the land of guns and the home of freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and freedom to petition the government. It’s not one of the most important parts of the Constitution for no reason. The United States has been built around this idea, and we see it every day. From Trump’s right to use Twitter to the ability of publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post to exist, even the right to scream out a string of curse words, our everyday lives are deeply rooted in this American ideal.

More recently, arguments over this fundamental American right have been brought to the forefront due to political actions and opinions, social media, and current events. For instance, survivors of the Parkland shooting have been using the First Amendment to protest the Second Amendment. This weird twist and use of American rights is what makes the United States of America truly so special; our government grants us the right to campaign against or praise almost anything in our country.

Current focus is put on the so-called negative aspects of the First Amendment, such as hate speech. However, hate speech does depend on the speaker and listener. In Florida, the Parkland students believe their opinion against gun regulations is valid, while others, such as strong Second Amendment supporters, see the Parkland students using the First Amendment to simply set the attention on themselves.

Yet, the issue here isn’t what happened in Florida or specific opinions about gun laws. What’s important is the new conflict that is arising: does the First Amendment apply to everyone in the U.S.?

You see, as the Parkland student’s cries of change spread throughout the country, more and more teens are being inspired to speak up about their beliefs, turning the country’s eyes towards the generation of young millennials and the adolescents of Gen Z.

Yet, a problem lies in how our generation is being treated as we speak out. If we say something ‘too’ smart, adults are surprised. If we take part in protests, adults don’t take us seriously. If we speak about politics, we are disregarded because some of us can’t vote yet. Most importantly, if we criticize older generations, our generation gets attacked for being self-absorbed tech junkies.

If young adults are not being attacked, the First Amendment itself is. In the midst of the political turmoil of this country, we are actually seeing attacks on freedom of speech and the press.

This past autumn, President Trump made a comment that certain news stations (such as NBC) that made allegedly unfair comments about him should have their news licenses reviewed by the Federal Communication Committees. He said the same thing about publications like The New York Times, that is notorious for being harsh on Trump.

The problem is that, in reality, the FCC doesn’t give out licenses to all news organizations, only individually. This is because of (surprise, surprise) the First Amendment. The amendment itself gives nearly any publication the right to exist. Basically, news organizations can’t simply be revoked. The fact that the President of the United States called for news organizations to be reviewed is violating the First Amendment because. . . um . . . they have the right to say what they think, even if it’s unfavorable to the President.

These shots fired from side to side represent a critical issue that must be discussed, especially as we go through high school and prepare for our adult lives. It doesn’t matter what opinions you have about any topic, but we must be supporters of the First Amendment and use it like there’s no tomorrow. America’s founding fathers didn’t spend years creating the laws and government for nothing.

I personally am very pro-freedom of speech (if I haven’t made that clear so far). I’ve been an avid news reader and watcher for a very long time. I’ve been high school journalist for four years, and I am now Editor-in-Chief of this wonderful paper. Everything I say, though, should be read by anyone, even individuals who aren’t fans of the news.

Without the First Amendment, everything in this country would be altered, including this very school environment. So, although the First Amendment is not in true peril currently, there are some frightening comments against it.

We, as the upcoming voters, cannot let this right be put in jeopardy. So, get out there and speak your mind, Skippers.

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