First Amendment Days seeks to educate students about freedoms


Kennedy DeRaedt/Iowa State Daily

Sophomore in journalism and mass communication Julian Neely spoke at the Feast on the First Amendment event. Feast on the First Amendment was held on central campus April 20, 2017, as a part of First Amendment Day.  

Jacob Smith

Within the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights lies the freedom of speech — the fundamental principle in creating a society that allows citizens to voice their opinions and ideas without government intervention. This week, the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication will celebrate the First Amendment freedoms.

The First Amendment Days celebration runs Monday through Friday and includes events and activities all around campus throughout the week. 

The First Amendment offers Americans five rights: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances and the right to peaceably assemble.

“Our First Amendment is meant to protect all American citizens from encroaches by the government to our freedoms,” said Jacob Schrader, a junior in economics. “Take advantage of these things.”

Julie Roosa, an adjunct assistant professor in journalism as well as a First Amendment specialist within the Greenlee School, said the first challenge is making everyone aware of their five First Amendment rights. Surveys show many Americans aren’t aware of what their five freedoms are, Roosa said.

“It’s tough to protect those rights when you don’t know what those rights are,” Roosa said.

Additionally, Roosa advocated for the realization and understanding of what the First Amendment does for citizens. 

“I think a lot of people don’t realize what life would be like if we didn’t have the First Amendment,” Roosa said. “It’s so easy to take for granted our freedoms here when it comes to those five freedoms and what they do for us collectively.”

Roosa said there is an option for students to take a seminar class in the fall that focuses on the First Amendment.

Schrader also called for students to be aware of their First Amendment rights.

“As a student, we’re all coming at a time of our lives when we’re gonna believe things we didn’t believe a year ago, and having the First Amendment is crucial to ensuring that those conversations can take place so we can all grow as people,” Schrader said.

Schrader said he believes that once students are aware of their rights, recognizing and calling out violations is important.

“You exercise your First Amendment rights just doing what you want to do and you don’t really worry about whether other people can silence you or not because they can’t,” Schrader said. “When [we’re in] college, we’re at the time of our lives when we’re supposed to be challenging new ideas, supposed to be learning—especially at a public university—this is where the First Amendment should be at its fullest.”

Taylor Blair, president of the College of Democrats, encouraged students to keep talking and actively use their First Amendment rights.

“At ISU, we can write, we can publish, we can post things online and that’s all possible because of the First Amendment,” Blair said. “I think that’s the best way to go forward. Just keep talking, keep talking.”

If citizens know their rights and believe they have been violated, Roosa called for them to speak up and let it be known. Sharing violations with authorities is extremely important to protect your rights.

Roosa asked for students to take time this week to enjoy and celebrate what the First Amendment does for America.

“Just informing yourself is what we all are responsible for,” Roosa said.

Iowa State’s First Amendment Days is the longest-running continual First Amendment celebration at any university in the United States, and this year marks its 17th year at Iowa State.

On Tuesday, Simon Tam of The Slants will host a meet and greet as well as a lunch sponsored by the Asian Student Union. Later in the evening Tam will give his lecture, “A Name Worth Fighting For: How Being Asian Got Me In Trouble,” in which he will talk about racism within his career as a musician.

Wednesday hosts sessions, such as “Violent Speech: Where is the Line?” as well as multiple other “Depth and Dialogue” sessions throughout the day.

Thursday will host Timmy Ham’s “Express Yourself” live art demo, where he will be creating an atmosphere of positivity and inspiration. He will be creating a street-art-inspired mural to commemorate First Amendment Days 2019.

From 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Iowa State Daily Office, the Iowa State Daily will host a First Amendment Workshop, where there will be expert training for First Amendment champions.