Preserving the First Amendment


“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.” These words are the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. They are the law of the country in which we live. They are a reality that no amount of sobering moments will destroy. They identify rights of all citizens in this country.

And here is what is most key: they are listed in one single amendment. The First Amendment is not split into five parts to describe five different freedoms for a reason. All of these freedoms are inherently linked; one cannot have free speech if one is not able to practice whatever religion they choose. They cannot peaceably assemble if they do not have a method in place to petition the government, otherwise such assembling is rendered useless. The list continues, but the point is that not one of these rights could exist if the other four did not as well.

Last edition, The Communicator used its freedom of speech and of the press to endorse Secretary Hillary Clinton for president. We thought (and still think) that she was the best candidate to represent the opinions of those of us who were unable to vote in the election. We now know that Donald Trump won the election, but here is something else we know: our constitutional right to a free press means that we, and every other news source in the country, are able to speak out about this election and we are able to hold everybody in public office accountable for their actions.

Journalistic integrity means that we need to ensure that the facts we are presenting to our readers are objectively true. That being said, having journalistic integrity is not at all the same thing as having no voice or opinion. Every single person in this paper, this school, this city, this state, this country and this world has a voice. We will not stand by and pretend to be neutral when we are scared for the future of our country.

And as a publication, albeit a small one, we have reason to be scared. On the following page, you will find a list of quotes from president-elect Donald Trump wherein he insults various media outlets that have in any way criticized or questioned him  and speaks about banning certain news sources so as make them be kinder in their reporting of him. As a publication, we are willing to use our voice and tell you that all of those quotes scare us. All of those quotes are a direct assault on our First Amendment right to a free press (we won’t even get into religious, assembly, and speech rights in this letter as it is already very long). And the man that said every single one of those things, the man that unceasingly threatens every right that “we the people” possess that allow us to stand up against our president, will be sworn into the highest political office in the country, if not the world, on January 20th. That scares us.

But we do not give into fear. We search for comfort in what surrounds us. In four years, pretty much all current Community High School students will be able to vote for the next president. That fact comforts us. Our school has suffered great personal loss in these past months, and we have all bonded together to grieve and to support one another, and we believe, or at least hope, that the same will be true for our country. That comforts us. As we go out into college and the rest of our lives, we will be exposed to new voices and opinions, and our own voices will be honed and strengthened by such experiences. As long as we approach these new voices with open ears, that fact comforts us.

The Communicator is not going anywhere, and despite what our president-elect may wish, neither are the freedoms expressed in the First Amendment. They may be challenged, yes, but the legal guarantee of all five of those freedoms is greater than what any one single man could hope to destroy. So please, Community High School, do not let your freedom of speech, assembly, etc., fall by the wayside. Speak out for what you know is right and what you know is wrong, but never forget that our free speech will never be heard if we do not also listen to those who hold different views. Defend those who are less fortunate than you, for if you refuse to lend them a megaphone so that their voices may be heard, nobody will. And exercise your right to a free press. Write an editorial for the Communicator to publish. Hey, write one for the New York Times. You may not be old enough to vote, but you’d be surprised how much weight your voice can carry.