The First Amendment Essay, Research Paper
The First Amendment
I. “Hey, hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”
II. This is an example of what American citizens said when exercising their right of free speech during the era of the Vietnam War.
III. The issue I’ve decided to speak about is the importance of our First Amendment rights.
IV. There are three areas of the First Amendment that I am going to discuss. Namely:
A. The right to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for
B. The right of the press to print whatever they want.
C. And of course the right to practice the religion of your choice.
Transition: Loosely translated, the First Amendment states that any
citizen is guaranteed the right to believe what they want to believe,
practice any religion they choose, and speak out about what they agree
or disagree with. It is our right to assemble peaceably in protest (or
support) and, when all else fails, petition the government for change
when the system is not working.
I. The fact that we can “assemble peaceably and petition for a redress
of grievances”, is a privilege that guarantees unto us the right to be
heard. Whether or not any progress is made is a different story, but we
are allowed in any case to bring our discontentment to light.
A. What if we were not allowed to gather together and speak our minds?
1. Such public displays of discontent are met with deadly force in other
regions of the world.
2. In June of 1989, in the People’s Republic of China, Tiananmen Square
was the site of such a demonstration by university students.
a. They were peacefully protesting for greater democracy and less
b. The uprising was quelled by the military, and the press was
conveniently blacked-out so that everything was cleaned up by the time
foreign press could investigate.
c. The true body count will never be known for certain.
B. What if the United States was run in the same manner?
What if we were not allowed to openly criticize the government and the
way they run things?
1. In the 40’s, the Nazis rounded up those that didn’t conform, labeled
them “political enemies”, and sent them to the same concentration camps
that they sent to murder the gypsies and Jews of Europe.
2. This practice was also not uncommon to the North Vietnamese who
frequently engaged in “political re-education”, which was simply another
term for “killing” during the late 60’s.
Transition: I’ve just talked about the freedom to assemble and to talk
about the government, what about the press?
II. In light of events such as the recent Clinton/Lewinsky scandal in
reference to the Ken Starr report, and the tragic death of Princess
Diana, some might say that sometimes the freedom of the press is taken
A. Arguably, the Ken Starr report is one of the longest and most lurid
wastes of taxpayer money ever put into print.
1. Some feel that it isn’t necessary to include every little detail of
the President’s sexual indiscretions in a media circus for the entire
world to see.
2. Do we really need to know what exactly transpired? We are not his
judge or his jury.
B. Also unnecessary is the need to engage in a high-speed chase in order
to maintain one’s privacy.
1. On August 31, 1997, Princess Diana was killed in an automobile
accident while trying to escape paparazzi photographers-was this really
2. Does the freedom of the press outweigh the freedom of the individual?
III. Also included in this Amendment is the freedom to establish any
religion and free practice thereof (so long as it doesn’t interfere with
another citizen’s “life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness.”)
A. This does not hold true in all countries.
1. Recently, Cuba has celebrated Christmas for the first time since the
communists took power in the 60’s.
2. The government, having declared itself atheist in nature, decided
that such a holiday would interfere with productivity and was,
a. Industries such as sugar, which depended heavily on human labor, were
no longer private corporations, but rather, they had been seized and
their profits went to the now more demanding communist government.
b. Mass absences for a religious holiday would not be tolerated and,
likewise, be seen as “an attempt to undermine the security of the
B. That seems pretty harsh…skipping a day of work to celebrate the
holiday with one’s family is suddenly an act of treason?
I. We must be aware of our rights, and we must fight to uphold them.
A. We need to be able to gather together to bash our government if that
is our desire.
B. The press needs to be able to publish whatever they want. If the
government controlled the press, would we ever have found out about
C. We need the freedom of religion, to worship how we please. Even if
we don’t celebrate Christmas, who complains about a day off?
II. We may not agree with what is being said at a Klan rally, but we
damn well have to agree with the right to say it.
A. If we begin silencing groups based on whether or not we agree with
them, who’s to say who’s next? Who’s to say what’s right or wrong, and
more importantly, the right to speak one’s mind about it?
B. Perhaps, above all we need to make sure that we maintain our civil
liberties…to make certain that we don’t become the next Nazi Germany.
“For those who do not know their history, are doomed to repeat it…”