Guest Column: First Amendment is what makes the United States great

Ethan Divis

December 17, 1791, was one of the most monumental days in American history, as the First Amendment was adopted. This amendment guaranteed all American citizens five freedoms: the freedoms of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition. With these freedoms, we Americans are allowed to speak our mind about the government and other things that pertain to our well-being. They give us the freedom to practice whatever religion we choose, the freedom to publish what we want, the freedom to assemble peacefully in protest and the freedom to petition the government. I am currently the web editor for the Kennedy Torch. Without these freedoms, it would be very difficult for me to accomplish anything. Every day I use each of these freedoms when reporting or editing stories to publish on our website.

All of the above freedoms make America the greatest country in the world. Every freedom is monumental in its own way as they allow us to live our lives freely and express ourselves. But, if I were forced to choose one of these freedoms to be taken away from me it would be freedom of the press. I couldn’t imagine living in a world where I couldn’t speak my mind, especially when it comes to government and sports. I’m also a very proud Catholic; I couldn’t imagine having to be forced to change religions. Without assembly, some of the greatest feats in American history may not have happened; the Civil Rights movement may not have happened if it weren’t for assembly. Without being able to petition the government we citizens may not have as much power; I couldn’t imagine what it would be like not being able question the government on some of the decisions it makes.

So if I were forced to live without one freedom, it would be the freedom of the press. This would be a very tough decision for me to make as I myself am a journalist. I believe that in a world without freedom of press I would still be able to publish stories, as long as those stories did not make anybody look bad and did not offend anybody. Those stories today are hard to come by, but they still are out there. The government would hide some of the scary facts out there to try and protect people, but it may not be for the best.

Living in a world without freedom of the press, a lot of things would change. It would be a lot more difficult for me to run our website, as we could be censored. Earlier this year we did a story on our website regarding student safety when it comes to gun violence. In a world without freedom of the press, we could be censored by our school’s principal, as she doesn’t want parents to feel her students are at danger while at school. Also, I’m very vocal with my political opinions, and I feel that as an American citizen it’s my duty to question our government and also talk about the good things that they are doing. I do this by often writing about my own opinions, whether my opinions are good or bad. In a world without freedom of the press, I wouldn’t be able to talk about our government in a negative manner. This would be a problem, as eventually reporters wouldn’t be allowed to report on what our government is doing. On a national stage, living without the freedom of the press would be a nightmare as stories about our government likely wouldn’t get published unless those stories would be talking about our government in a good light. News shows would be censored to only talk about the good in the world not the bad. In that case, people would just start to ignore all of the bad things going on in the world. In 2008, our city of Cedar Rapids was devastated by flood, and it was covered on national news. Because of that coverage on national news, it helped raised funds to help the recovery process. Without freedom of the press, the government could choose to censor the news talking about how the floods have devastated our town as it would possibly make the government look bad for not helping out as much as they could.

Looking back at the scenario of living without freedom of the press, it makes me realize that the First Amendment is what drives this country and without it, life would be terrible. The freedoms that are guaranteed in the First Amendment grants us the freedom to live our lives the way we choose. It’s what makes this country the greatest country in the world. We American citizens are really fortunate to live here. People from other countries have their freedoms taken away from them, so we should learn to appreciate the First Amendment. As the web editor of the First Amendment allows me to do my duties as editor and makes our website what it is today.