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Essay On The First Amendment: Free Speech Is Free Speech
This is a sample college essay about freedom of speech, and the continuing relevance of the first amendment to the American constitution. For other sample essay please use the search bar.
Title: "Free Speech is Free Speech"
Two second-graders, little Timmy and Billy, are playing on the playground during recess. Timmy is playing with his toy car, and Billy comes up and grabs it out of his hands. Timmy starts crying and goes and tells the teacher. The teacher tells Billy to give the car back, and Billy says: No! I can do whatever I want! This is a FREE country! Although this example is a little extreme, many Americans know something about the principles of the Constitution of the United States, but they do not understand exactly why the were created.
Today, many ponder the usefulness of their freedom of expression when it is almost impossible for their voices to be heard by others without the access to TV networks. Few people realize that the first amendment to the United States Constitution was written to protect citizens from being incarcerated due to their beliefs or thoughts, and not to ensure every Americans voice could be heard by as many people as they would like. Understood in this way, the right to free speech is still valuable, even if getting others to hear your voice without having money or power is difficult.
The first amendment to the United States Constitution, concerning "Freedom of Religion, Press, [and] Expression," was written over 200 years ago, and ratified on 12/15/1791. It states:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
The reason that this amendment was so important to the founding fathers was that it addressed a problem which had driven many from England in the first place. The idea of free speech was virtually unheard of during the time the constitution was created. At that time, in other places around the world, people were being persecuted for what they said. In many places it was unlawful to practice specific religions, hold certain beliefs, or speak out against the government. Citizens faced prison sentences, torture, or even death for violating such prohibitions. Even today, there are many countries that do not guarantee the basic right or privilege of freedom of speech.
An American soldier tells us about one of these foreign lands: I'm trying to help provide to the Iraqi and Afghan people the same rights that every American has, which some take for granted. I believe in the right of free speech and people's right to protest and express concerns to their leaders. Most of us Americans are guilty of taking some of our basic freedoms for granted. We are born and raised here, with no experience of living in a place without these freedoms. Some of us cant even imagine what it would be like, for example, in a place like Qatar: In reality, by Western standards, freedom of speech and a free press are severely restricted in Qatar. Public criticism of the ruling family or of Islam is forbidden. Even after formal censorship was lifted, newspapers have been shut down twice for publishing articles that ran contrary to Qatars interests. By contrast, and even though it may be difficult to have one's voice heard by the masses, Americans can still benefit from the legal protection that the constitutional guarantee of our freedom of speech provides for us.
The term Free Speech implies that all speech is free from prosecution, which of course is untrue. Obviously, there are some forms of speech which are not protected, such as slander, obscenity, and speech that presents a clear and present danger, but other forms are free. For example, we have the freedom to walk down the street announcing anything we want. It costs nothing to express our opinions through whatever free means we have available.
But some still argue that this right is useless unless many others can hear what a person has to say. They point out that few Americans can afford to get their voices heard, and those who benefit most are still those who can afford television time. For TV stations typically do not just give away free airtime to whoever wants it. But television airtime is only valuable because people want to watch the programs that are put on, and production companies spend billions of dollars to make popular shows. They cover these costs with the revenue generated by the limited advertising space they have, which is of course sold to the highest bidder. Today, advertisers are shelling out a record $705,000 per 30-second spot on Fox's American Idol, $560,000 for ABC's Desperate Housewives, $465,000 for CBS' CSI, and $350,000 for Survivor on CBS, Lost on ABC and The Apprentice on NBC.
Even after these enormous costs to place advertisements, the networks are only going to accept advertisements with messages that do not conflict with the interests of the company. The networks are profit-driven companies, just like most other businesses in this capitalist economy. The only entities which can afford to purchase advertising space only do so because they believe that there will be some sort of economic return on their investment. Network advertising is expensive due to the demand from other competitive businesses, which all desire the same publicity. So it is not surprising that only businesses and wealthy corporations get to exercise their free speech on television.
But advertising on network television is not the only avenue to the goal of expressing an opinion to the masses. Many Americans forget to appreciate what's most important about the first amendment: the protection of the basic right to express an opinion without being punished by the law. Moreover, from national issues to local campus matters, the underdog group, even when they lack funding to publicize their opinions, can still effectively come out victorious. A good national example of people expressing ideas who didnt have control over the media is the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, when Sit-ins, freedom rides, the March on Washington, and Dr. Kings I Have a Dream speech captured public attention and support. This shows the publics power to share its opinion with the rest of the world, without having to spend millions on advertising space.
An exemplary local case where a dissenting group was able to overcome adversity and change the majority opinion despite having the lesser means of advertising was the fee referendum that was voted down at Cal Poly by students last year. Associated Students, Inc., or ASI, proposed an increase in student fees to fund the building of new facilities. They took a poll to see what kind of support they would have: 66% of students surveyed said they would pay to renovate ASI facilities. They started spring 2005 quarter with a highly publicized Yes campaign. This consisted of signs and posters everywhere around campus, ASI student employees and staff members wearing Yes shirts, buttons and pins, advertisements in the school newspaper, and flyers with convincing statistics encouraging everyone to vote "yes." ASI had communication resources that no other organization on campus had access to. Finally, in the last few days before the opening of the polls, one club on campus, the Progressive Student Alliance printed a few flyers which were then distributed around school. These flyers contained very convincing information as to why students should vote against the proposed fee referendum. Once the results of the vote were in, many students were shocked to hear that the fee referendum was voted down, despite ASIs campaign efforts. The school newspaper, the Mustang Daily, reported that ASI spent well over $50,000 on their campaign, a budget that no other club could afford.
It would be faulty to assume that the United States is similar to a college campus, but the concept is the same. An organization may have the dominant means to communicate their ideas to the majority of the population, but this does not mean that their opinions will be accepted, or even considered by everyone. Without freedom of speech, the underdogs would not even be able to express their opinion to anyone. Dr. King would have been arrested for his opinion. The Progressive Student Alliance could have been expelled from school for expressing public dissent.
The founding fathers intended to grant equal legal protection to everyone with an opinion. That principle of free speech is still valid, but the implications are much more complex today than they were 200 years ago. The first amendment was written in the 18th century, when there was no television, radio, or internet. We were a country with only thirteen states, and since then, we have grown in area and population. In fact, the population of the United States has grown continuously, from 4 million at the first national census in 1790, to 76 million in 1900, to 281 million in 2000. It is hard to tell whether or not our founding fathers expected this growth, but we can be certain that there was no way for them to have any knowledge of upcoming technological advances such as television, radio, or the internet. Had they foreseen this development, and intended to write the first amendment laws not only for protection, but also to ensure each citizen had equal opportunity to express their opinion freely, the complications would be nearly impossible to address.
Say, for example, the government decided to create a television network intended for the use of citizens to state their opinion. Every person would only get about one tenth of a second of air time per year. Even if you could do something with your tenth of a second, it would not be fair to give one person their time at four in the morning, and another person their time on a Sunday evening. Also, how many Americans would actually watch such a network, instead of the season premiere of American Idol? The idea of free speech is just as valid today as it is was 200 years ago. But the concept of creating equality in the means that we use to get our voices heard is still as impossible and impractical as it was 200 years ago.
Our founding fathers created this country with the belief that everyones opinion should count equally. That is why they chose the system of voting to help our country make decisions. They knew that this structure would be the most fair and efficient means of hearing each citizens voice, while still allowing for a capitalist economy. One belief which had a strong influence on the way the constitution was written is that the proper role of government is to protect equal rights, not provide equal things. We must not forget to appreciate the freedoms that we have, including and especially our freedom of speech.
Submitted by: Tom
Essay on The First Amendment
556 Words3 Pages
The First Amendment
America was built on freedom. Freedom to speak, freedom to choose, freedom to worship, and freedom to do just about anything you want within the law. America’s law was designed to protect and preserve these freedoms. The reason the United States of America came to exist was because the colonists fled Great Britain to get back the freedoms that were taken away from them by the Monarchy. In countries where Monarchies and Dictatorships rule, there is little if any freedom to speak of. Citizens of these countries are persecuted or even killed if they attempt to exercise any of the basic freedoms. In these countries there is no free speech, no right to choose government, no right to express religion, no right to own…show more content…
Even in the early stages of American history there was an urge to put legally protected freedoms into written government documents. The result was the drafting of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, by James Madison. The applications of the personal freedoms described in the Bill of Rights, particularly the freedom of speech, have been challenged repeatedly in American courts of law and elsewhere. These incidents and challenges of authority reflect the defensive American attitude toward the ever-important freedom of expression and the growing significance of personal rights throughout American history.
Without this amendment, women would have never had a voice in political issues. Dr. Martin Luther King would have never made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech that influenced millions. The press would have never been allowed to cover the “private affairs” of president Bill Clinton. The American citizens would never be allowed to protest, picket, rally, or make any attempt to influence the government. The framers of the Constitution were aware of consequences like these, and, in making an effort to preserve the freedom that America had fought so hard to obtain, added this and many other amendments to the Constitution.
In American tradition, the value of the individual, and individual opinion, is held in high esteem. Free expression is the means by which consensus is reached and central authority is balanced. In this democracy,