This I Believe

Roslyn - New Caney, Texas
Entered on October 4, 2006
Age Group: 65+
Themes: freedom
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe in freedom of speech. From my earliest days in school, freedom of speech was almost synonymous with being an American, and I never gave it much thought. Now, after thinking about it, I believe in freedom of speech, but not unconditionally.

I heard Osama bin Laden and his second in command and saw how speech can be used as a threat and a weapon.

On television I heard of a girl who was going to discuss the benefits of polygamous families, speaking for the children of such families. As a believer in free speech I have to

accept her right to speak.

If someone were to represent the children of narcotics dealers, or the children of serial killers, or the children of Alqaeda terrorists, am I bound to listen to them too? The only caveat is they cannot incite others to violence.

Fortunately, my belief in freedom of speech

also includes freedom of listening. This is my right at the other end of free speech.

Yet there are certainly times when someone

says exactly what you are thinking but cannot put into words. Someone complains or argues

against a situation, and awakens or informs other people. This is freedom of speech as it was meant to be. But in order to have the gem,

a person has to sift through all the clogging soil

around it, to put up with the dross.

I have only to think of the possibility of strict censorship and the loss of free speech to

feel its importance. Fear of saying what you think results in the choking and sputtering that

interferes with breathing. How could you breathe if you were fearful of every word you spoke? Yet people in many parts of the world have been forced to do it.

They suppressed their thoughts, their allegiances, and their alliances. The act of doing so strangled their voices, ruined their digestions, and raised their blood pressures.

Free speech may be noisy at times, often

unproductive, but it is certainly healthier than the alternative.