As your professor of remedial studies of things that matter, I have frequently blogged about events with historic significance as they relate to today. I just never thought I would have to explain The First Amendment and Freedom of Speech to a bunch of Ivy Leaguers. That’s right, the current crop of undergrads at Yale has failed Civics 101 and that leaves me no choice but to give a refresher course in the most important part of the Bill of Rights.
Let’s start with this simple explanation given by Justice Louis Brandeis… “Those who won our independence . . . believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that without free speech and assembly discussion would be futile.”
Now let’s hear from Justice Abe Fortas who explained the importance of free speech on campus… “First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students. It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate . . . . Schools may not be enclaves of totalitarianism. School officials do not possess absolute authority over their students. Students . . . are possessed of fundamental rights which the State must respect, just as they themselves must respect their obligations to the State.”
Now listen closely children. Free speech is for everybody. Any American can say any damn thing they want and the Constitution protects that right. If the other Ivy League students want to make fun of foolish Yale students, they can and they will now that you demonstrated your complete ignorance of the First Amendment. Exactly what part of the word FREE tripped you up? It means unrestrained, uninhibited and unforced. It is the single most fundamental right any human being can possess and the Founding Fathers put it at the top of the Bill of Rights, which is exactly where it belongs. Maybe you should read the Constitution just once before you try to invoke rules you know nothing about.
The great thing about Free Speech is that it cuts both ways. The more you talk, the more opportunity I get to respond. Telling me to shut up is telling yourself to shut up. You can’t have it both ways. Either we all get to speak our minds or no one does. That’s probably the part you find problematic. After years of being told you were special and given awards for breathing you now have to face the reality that some people have different opinions than you. Truth be told, a whole lot of people have different opinions than you and when you leave your little island of security at Yale you are going to start meeting them every day. Mom and Dad may not be able to protect you then and asking people to please not talk isn’t going to get you anywhere. You’re going to hear words and concepts that are completely foreign to your tender ears and some of them might hurt your feelings. Some of them might even make you question your beliefs. OMG. Welcome to the real world, you just joined the rest of us as fully functioning human beings. Thus endeth the lesson.
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