The First Amendment has proven its importance throughout history, time and again. The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech and expression. As a result, it is directly connected and pivotal to the functioning of our vibrant democracy. The right to freedom of speech is an integral component of our democracy, and is also a reflection of the American way of life.
In a democratic society, free speech operates as an essential tool of self-governance within a democratic country. It allows people from all backgrounds to obtain crucial information from a number of sources, it enables people to make informed decisions, and allows for the communication of these decisions to the government. Beyond the political realm of free speech, the First Amendment also provides Americans with a “marketplace of ideas,” which permits the truth to arise from a number of different sources (Christensen, 1).
The freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and forms the foundations of many of the other rights, allowing them to thrive. The ability to speak one’s mind freely, on any issue in society, as well as access information from a number of sources, is central to the healthy functioning of a democracy (Smolla, 1). To illustrate this importance, those who lack this freedom of expression are typically those who are already marginalized, such as minorities that face discrimination in underdeveloped countries. These minorities may include people in African countries, or disabled people in Western Europe. While the struggles vary among these peoples, there is one consistent theme: that they face much larger barriers in their access to freedom of speech than we do. As a result, these groups are unable to communicate their views, ideas, needs, and worries to the larger society. This excludes the people from participating meaningfully within their society, and also prevents them from even attempting to improve their own lives. In sum, discrimination is often a result of not having the access to freedom of speech and expression (“Why is access,” 1).
The protection of free speech, as well as the diffusion of free information, is what sets our democracy apart from other restrictive and oppressive countries around the world. Other countries, such as North Korea, are heavily controlled and guided by too-powerful governments. In fact, journalists and the press are not free to report on anything; rather, they must report on only a pre-approved script. In this way, the government infiltrates every mind in the country, telling them exactly what they should do or believe (“Why Protecting,” 1).
Just because we have the freedom of speech, does not mean it will always be here, however. It is up to us to protect and uphold this freedom, as well as respect it. The rights are up to us to preserve just as our founders intended. If we do hope to continue our democracy, efforts must be focused on our freedom, and our ability, to know what is going on inside the government. Often, presidents have come under the scrutiny of the press for being too secretive, and for this reason, Americans should be concerned, as this is a threat to our freedom of speech and the freedom of knowledge (“Why Protecting,” 1). It is within every American’s power and concern to voice this issue, so that this freedom can be protected.
In summary, the freedom of speech is an integral component to our lives as Americans, as well as to our thriving democracy. While we have been granted this freedom from our founding fathers, it is up to us to not only respect it, but also maintain it.
- Christensen, Britt. “Why Freedom of Speech Matters.” InsideSources. 11 Feb. 2015. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.
- Smolla, Rodney. “Speech Overview.” First Amendment Center. 23 Oct. 2002. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.
- “Why Is Access to Freedom of Expression Important?” Index on Censorship. 20 Mar. 2013. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.
- “Why Protecting Free Speech Is so Important for the Future of Journalism.” Newspaper Association of America. 2014. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.