Freedom of Speech

12 December 2018

Mark Twain once said “It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.” The first lesson I remember learning as a young child was “appropriateness”. It is also the longest lesson. From the time I was little till even now at 17 years old, all I ever hear is do not say that, do not do this, do not. When in reality, the ability to DO is one that was given to us upon birth.

I moved from Northern Virginia to Alabama when I was thirteen years old. It was a major culture shock for me. Each person seemed to expect me to say, act, and do things a certain “proper” way. Upon entering my freshman year of high school, I enrolled in a Gilded Lederman course on Colonial America. Excitement crept up into my throat and I was filled with sheer bliss that finally I would be in a room covered with pictures and facts about my home.

The first day of class was invigorating. Each new sentence lead me to shoot my hand up and add to the thought that the teacher had stated, even at times combatting the thoughts he or she possessed. As school went on I kept joy for my other classes knowing that this one piece of diamond lay beneath all the rocks and dirt. Finally, I begin to notice the grunts and groans of other students when my hands flew up. Each time a new thought popped into my mind I second guessed raising my hand in fear that I would not be accepted welcomingly into the conversation but rather shunned for speaking up.

During the final part of this course that I had started loath from the pain I felt of the constant tormenting, we had to present on the Boston Massacre. Each student was to define what he or she believed to have occurred leading up to the historic event. A month was given in advance for research into the myths and theories of its happening. The teacher stated that if questions were asked to the presenter and they could not answer that the points would go to the questioners’ presentation.

The first presenter went up to the front and I began to focus in on the story of the speaker. The power point behind him was just like background noise going unnoticed by my eyes. Suddenly, the entire class began to snicker and sneer; my eyes were made to pay attention to the visual image displayed behind this presenter. At the top of the slide were the words “questions’ Katie may ask.” I thought for a second and then smiled and raised my hand. It was my turn to speak, because I was born with that right.

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