Celebrate the First Amendment not just annually, but every day


A young girl waves an American flag at an event in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington in Lexington on Jan. 21, 2017, expressing her First Amendment right to peacefully assemble. 

Nowadays, it is impossible to talk about politics and journalism without bringing the First Amendment into the conversation. The idea is so important to talk about that we have a Scripps Howard First Amendment Center on campus, and this center hosts many First Amendment panels and events throughout the year.

On Thursday, the center will host another event, the annual First Amendment celebration. However, we should not just limit this celebration to this one day every year; we must celebrate our rights guaranteed to us by the First Amendment every day.

Any introductory civics course covers the creation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Such a course probably spends a lot of time on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The amendment guarantees and validates five rights that all American citizens have: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, right to assemble, right to petition the government and freedom of the press. Each of these rights are explicitly stated as they provide different protects, but they all have a common goal, which is to allow Americans the right to expression.

In today’s world, these rights are often taken for granted. Any American citizen can freely post their own opinion on a website or social media account and discuss the issue with others in public. Still, across the globe, many cannot do the same.

The First Amendment sounds like a larger-than-life issue, but it really affects us in our daily lives. At UK, students can freely criticize campus issues, hold peaceful protests, petition administration and more without repercussion, as is their right. The entire campus community also has UK-specific news outlets—such as the Kentucky Kernel—that independently cover the university and provide a forum for campus debate. All of these are able to happen because of protections provided in the First Amendment.

We must strive to exercise these rights as often as possible, whether the action something as simple liking a Facebook post or more complex like organizing a town hall to discuss a campus issue.

The First Amendment lays the foundation for much of what our nation is. The United States is based on principles that encourages discussion and debate to solve issues and give equal representation. The First Amendment allows citizens to form beliefs and spread opinions, a unique right that we must practice daily.

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