What are the values that we share as Americans? Freedom, equality, and justice are the big three core values that Americans share. We have shared these values since America’s founding. This doesn’t mean that these values were always there for everyone. Many people of color were denied equality until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The people who denied freedom and equality to people of color contradicted the founding principles of the country.
There is a reason that the amendment that protects freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion is the First Amendment. It was put in front because of its importance. The values of freedom of religion, speech, press, and peaceful assembly are all extremely important values for every country. Without freedom of speech, none of America’s problems could be talked about without fear of the government condemning you for what you’ve said. These freedoms are what allow the rest of the Constitution to perform its protective functions.
This isn’t to suggest that the other amendments aren’t important, but freedom of speech is fundamental. For all countries, it is fundamental. We have seen throughout history what has happened when freedom of speech is taken away. People can get imprisoned, tortured, and even killed for expressing what they believe and think. A current example would be North Korea. The leader, Kim Jong Un is a dictator who doesn’t care about his people. People aren’t allowed to leave the country and they are told that everywhere else is worse than where they are now. “Criticism of the regime or the leadership in North Korea, if reported, is enough to make you and your family ‘disappear’ from society and end up in a political prison camp” (Liberty). It seems strange that things like this are happening in the world right now. Things like it should be a thing of the past. But for others, a lack of freedom is all that they have known.
The lack of freedom in North Korea illustrates why strong principles of freedom,
equality, and justice are so important to the foundation of a country. But, sadly, many Americans do not seem to recognize this. The University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center conducted a survey and determined that “more than a third (37 percent) [of those surveyed] said they didn't know or couldn't name any rights protected by the First Amendment.” Only “48%” of them answered that freedom of speech was one of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution (Slade). After reading this, it surprised us at how little Americans really knew about the First Amendment (or didn’t care enough to say that they knew) and thought that people should know more about the rights that it guarantees and values it protects. These values may be known by many Americans but am not certain that many people know where they come from--which is pretty important.
Americans share these values, but they can sometimes be taken for granted. These values are so important that no one can really live and thrive without them. We both are extremely glad that we were born in America and not somewhere like North Korea where there is very little freedom. America hasn’t been perfect and isn’t perfect but the values that have been written down by our founding fathers are now reflected in many of our laws. American citizens participating in the democratic process support and have reaffirmed that we really can change the country for the better.
Madison, James. “Bill of Rights.” Bill of Rights Institute, www.billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/
No author given. “The People's Challenges.” Liberty in North Korea, www.libertyinnorthkorea.org/learn-nk-challenges/.
Stephanie-Slade. “More Than a Third of Americans Have No Idea What the First Amendment Says.” Reason.com, 19 Sept. 2017, reason.com/blog/2017/09/19/more-than-a-third-of-americans-have-no-i