Free Speech Week to be observed this week

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez, Staff Reporter

In 1787, the United States’s Founding Fathers wrote into the Constitution that “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.”

They emphasized the importance of freedom of speech by making it the first amendment written on that piece of parchment all those years ago. Today, freedom of speech is just as important to the members of our country, with people everywhere using their right to voice their opinions, beliefs, and ideas.

Every year, the United States observes the importance of freedom of speech during the third full week of October. This yearly event is known as Free Speech Week, and this year it will be observed from October 19 to October 25, 2020. Being a nonpartisan and non-ideological event designed to raise awareness and celebrate the importance of free speech and free press, this event is meant to be an unifying celebration for all Americans.

As Diana Argueta, a junior graphic design and Spanish major, put it, freedom of speech is not just our First Amendment right, but means much more than that. She believes it is a right all human beings should have, because it allows us to share our ideas with one another.

“Freedom of speech in general is a human right. People shouldn’t be censored because of fear of what could happen. Freedom of speech is a way of expression, and it’s important because we need to express ourselves no matter what,” Argueta said. “It’s important because it allows different ideas to flow and it allows us to better understand ourselves as well as others.”

Tais Medellin, a sophomore biology and pre-med major, also believes that expressing ideas with others is important because it can connect people with other like-minded people.

“Freedom of speech is a way to vocalize your ideas, your problems, or your issues that you have going on,” Medellin said. “Exercising your right can help you find solutions for those problems or issues and help you find other people around you that share those same thoughts as you.”

Casey Wilderman, a senior environmental biology student, said she thinks it is important to exercise our right to freedom of speech because doing so can bring about change.

“We need to be able to openly express agreement and disagreement to change things that are unjust and unfair. It also goes the same way for things in which we support. Our society is always changing, and freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental reasons for that,” Wilderman said.

Because freedom of speech is a fundamental right all Americans share, everyone uses their free speech in different ways. Many people across the country, as well as here at Eastern, exercise their freedom of speech to speak out about a variety of important issues.

Jurnee Evans, a junior English student studying creative writing, uses their freedom of speech to voice their opinions, share what they are thinking, and spread awareness about certain things happening in the world.

They shared that especially with the way the world is now in the current political climate, they use their right to educate and inform others. They find their freedom of speech very important because it allows them to speak out about issues that affect them, as well as other people.

“I am a part of multiple minority groups. I am a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I have various disabilities, I am neurodivergent, and I’m part of the working class. I feel like if I were in certain other places where you are not allowed the freedom of speech, I wouldn’t be able to voice injustices that minorities experience,” Evans said. “Even for minority groups that I am not a part of, I wouldn’t be able to inform people about what’s going on. I would be silenced, so I feel like that’s why freedom of speech is so important to me. I can actually talk about these things with people.”

Argueta said she also uses her freedom of speech to raise awareness about issues that affect other people.

“To start off, I’m an advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement, so I use my freedom of speech for that. I know that last year, there was the whole incident with white supremacy, so I decided to use my freedom of speech to speak up for the students who were scared to say or do something. I exercised my freedom of speech like that. I also exercise my freedom of speech on social media, sharing and posting stuff about debatable topics and human rights,” Argueta said.

Medellin also uses her freedom of speech to speak about important political and human rights issues.

“With Donald Trump being president, and him vocalizing a lot about his ideas against illegal immigrants and other minority groups, I like to defend those people. I use [my freedom of speech] to vocalize how minority groups need to be seen more and to be categorized as people, instead of just a problem,” Medellin said.

Despite the fact that freedom of speech is a right all Americans, and all people across the world, should have, many people do not have the ability to use it.

Evans believes that, across the world, not everybody has the ability to express themselves freely.

“There are certain countries that are very repressive and keep certain people from speaking their mind about certain things. Even our country isn’t that great. We claim to have this broad sense of freedom of speech, but there’s still some ways that people in power try to keep people from voicing their opinion or just voicing actual facts,” Evans said.

Evans believes that the way to bring an end to those limitations that make it hard for people to speak freely is to use our rights to protest and petition to gain more freedom of speech.

“There are forces keeping us from talking about important issues, so we are going to make an even bigger scene about it by going on marches, for example, so that they will listen to us,” Evans said.

Wilderman believes that in theory, everyone has the freedom to speak, but the truth about free speech is a lot more complicated than that. She also believes that there are ways we can all work together to make sure everyone has the ability to voice their thoughts.

“In practice, I don’t think everyone truly gets to speak freely. I’m not entirely sure how we can rewrite the oppression people feel when it comes to speaking freely, but I think we can start by always hearing other people out,” Wilderman said. “Having discussions and educating one another is a great way to speak openly and without restraint while also making it clear where people stand on certain topics. I think it would be great to encourage others to talk more openly to one another to be able to learn from one another. I believe that this is how we can begin to speak more freely.”


Kyara Morales-Rodriguez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]