First Amendment Day a reminder that we can have our say
By KAREN HANSEN
Friday was Constitution Day and September 25 was First Amendment Day.
Constitution Day marks the date in 1787 that delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document they had spent months negotiating. Now he celebrates the unique system of checks and balances that the drafters established as our form of government.
On September 25 just two years later, Congress approved 12 amendments, including 10 that became the Bill of Rights and its First Amendment. The five freedoms we celebrate on First Amendment Day protect the fundamental ways in which we participate in society and democracy:
● Pray and worship – or not – according to our own beliefs;
● Say what we think, even – and especially – when we disagree;
● Publish news, opinions, ideas and information, including to hold those in power to account;
● Come together peacefully to amplify our voices;
● Bring problems to government officials and suggest solutions.
The freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and First Amendment petition are part of our daily life. But it’s not every day that we stop to think about the how or the why.
When we do, many Americans have questions and concerns about how these freedoms work in practice.
We can be afraid to speak our mind in a conflicted and sometimes punitive social media world.
We may not know how loudly we can raise our voices, or when we have gone too far.
We may be unsure of the course to take when our deepest beliefs conflict or diverge from those of others in our communities.
As Americans, we have passionate – and different – perspectives on challenges such as those facing our society. There are no easy answers.
Constitution Day reminds us that democracy is about finding, through our system of checks and balances, how to coexist when we are not all the same and do not all agree.
The first amendment recalls that democracy is a participatory process. We can have our say.
It took time to codify these founding principles. In fact, it took two more years after they were sent to states for the 10 amendments we now know as the Bill of Rights to be ratified on December 15, 1791.
The authors of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights established and modeled a process to be a part of something bigger than themselves, despite their profound differences.
They also recognized the importance of having a lasting reminder of the values that guided their work to form a new union: the First Amendment.
Today, if we take the time to understand and defend these essential freedoms, they can continue to guide us in our nation’s continued work to become a “more perfect union” for all of us.
This is exactly what you do when you speak, write, or shout what you believe – Constitution Day, First Amendment Day, or any day.
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Karen Hansen is the Content Editor for the Freedom Forum. You can reach Karen at [email protected].