Cameron Reid recently graduated as salutatorian from Cheatham County Central High School. Using this scholarship, he will pursue his interest in computer engineering during his time at the University of Tennessee. After college, he hopes to build that interest into a great career in the consumer electronics industry. Along the way, he hopes to remain committed to supporting the 1st Amendment by promoting free Speech and keeping an open mind.
Imagine living in a country or sovereign state in which Freedom of speech does not exist. Try to picture living in a place where you are prohibited from speaking negatively about the Government, its members, or its practices. Envision an environment where censorship is rampant, journalism is practically nonexistent, and the government has control over what information they publicly release and what they keep under wraps. As Americans, we often take our legal right to say practically whatever we want whenever we want for granted. To us, the lack of freedom of speech only exists in history books and dystopian tales, such as The Hunger Games or 1984.
Unfortunately, not only do government censorship and restrictions on public expression still exist in numerous countries worldwide, but they do not seem like they will be going away anytime soon. In places such as North Korea, Burma, and Turkmenistan, the government controls virtually all information outlets (news, publications, etc.). Citizens of these countries are prohibited from reading, watching, or listening to news sources from other sources, cannot access the internet without heavy censorship, and journalists cannot dishonor their country, government, or leader. These nations attempt to create a utopian view of themselves by showing propaganda and news that supports the government.
Meanwhile, in the United States, such restrictions do not exist. The Constitution of the United States explicitly permits its citizens to speak and express themselves freely. The founders of the United States wrote the law because they believed that their creator endowed the people with the right of expression. They did not think any government should interfere with that right because would take too much power away from the people. Therefore, Americans may speak as harshly, negatively, or critically about their government as they want without fear of being prosecuted.
The great benefit of the freedom of speech, besides the fact that it frees people’s minds from bondage, is that it leads to change in the government. Because Americans are allowed to criticize Congress and the president, people can inspire the country’s leaders to do what they think is right for the nation, and not what is in the government’s best interest. Americans have the opportunity to steer the country’s leadership in the direction they think is best, and this leads to a government run by the citizens, not by the wealthy or well-off. Without this fundamental freedom, America would be no better than North Korea, Burma, or Turkmenistan, where their governments’ best interests determine the freedoms of their citizens. As long as it maintains its laws on freedom of speech, the United States of America will remain the greatest country in the world.
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