The importance of the first amendment
The following is the winner of The Daily Cougar’s Constitution Day essay contest.
When we consider our rights as codified in the Constitution, we should always remember the first amendment as foremost among the rest. Without our basic and essential rights established by that first amendment, the others would have little to no meaning and hardly any force. If we could not petition our government, if we could not speak freely and criticize our government — not to mention setting those criticisms into print — where would our freedoms be? Without these basic liberties, how could we claim membership in a society free and open to all?
Freedom to practice one’s religion is not only a staple to preserve those disparate views that constituted America’s founding, but it allows the U.S. to flourish as a melting pot of cultures. It is easy to forget that we are also immigrants, or descendants of immigrants, and that for many, emigration to the States was preceded by religious persecution. Such was the situation for my ancestors. Faced with marginalization, and deemed second-class citizens, a small Slavic minority, known as Wends, fled Prussia and East Germany to preserve their culture, language and religion in America by establishing a community in Texas. The increased pressure from all sides to assimilate, abandon their traditions and cultural identity in favor of a Germanic one, led to a diaspora for freer and tolerant lands.
Everyone has a story, an ancestry, a reason for being here; but without an explicit guarantee of such rights to liberty, those stories may have well been different altogether. Unlike some others whose ancestries are lost, I am fortunate enough to have that narrative. I can place myself into a history that holds meaning for me, which grants me a foundation for being American. I can understand that without those precious few rights outlined in the first amendment, we could never have become the nation we know today. Those freedoms are what gave us that opportunity, and are so ingrained that we can no more give them up, than if we were to give up completely being American. Such a catastrophe would ruin the story we’ve built here.
Daniel Dooley is a philosophy graduate student and winner of The Daily Cougar’s Constiution Day competition.