I believe in freedom of speech. Free speech can never be fully appreciated, except in its absence. Ali, a friend from Iraq, understands this. Before he immigrated to the United States, he was always watching what he said and frequently checking to see if he were being followed. Ali’s brother spoke out against Saddam’s regime and disappeared. Ali’s father was suspected of sedition and tortured. He endured electric shock, beatings, and burns. These stories remind me how lucky I am to be an American, to live in a society that prizes and protects individuals’ liberties.
In some countries, you are punished if you speak your mind. In America, communicating your beliefs is a fundamental principle governing society. When I went to a town hall meeting, I expostulated against the corrupt county commissioner, exposing his greed and lack of qualifications. Instead of lashing me, the people at the meeting supported and stood with me. Soon there was a new commissioner.
Education has also benefited from this freedom of speech. My friend and I often disagree—and debate—on political topics. We had a particular trying argument, one day, on the intrinsic value of competing currencies. I did not speak to him the next day, but instead of reporting me to the government (as in some countries is required) our friendship eventually recovered. I believe I better understand his position, and a perspective of the world, because of free speech.
I believe I am fortunate to live in a society where free speech is protected. Especially today, I have tremendous felicity to live here, in the United States of America, if only for the ability to say what I wish to say, to speak what I wish to speak, and to realize my dreams, while right now in other countries people are tortured and persecuted for speaking out.