Last week the White House hosted the ‘Generation Next’ forum, designed to start a conversation with the millennial generation about the issues currently facing young people in America. The forum was split into three parts featuring Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump, and Kellyanne Conway, respectively. The last segment of the forum focused on the free speech crisis on college campuses.
The panelists were flooded with questions from students and lawyers actively fighting for the First Amendment. Sarah Isgur Flores, of the Department of Justice, explained a case at UC Berkeley where a student group wanted to host an immigration debate—but only the liberal side of the debate would be allowed to speak on campus.
The conservative position was deemed too controversial and would need to be held off campus, “Basically, where no one could hear it,” Sarah explained. This was one of many examples of conservative ideas being forces out of campus, despite First Amendment rights.
“It was the ‘hecklers-veto’. If they deem someone else could find your speech offensive, they control whether you get to speak,” Sarah went on.
When asked what this administration is doing to help protect the First Amendment, Sarah added, “I think this president leads by example in this issue, more than anyone else ever has. [He] is going to challenge your world view, [he] is going to say what [he] thinks, and argue back if you don’t like it.”
Whether you agree with President Trump’s policies or not, free speech should not be a partisan issue. It is a breath of fresh air to hear an administration concerned with protecting our freedoms.
The First Amendment exemplifies the original idea of what America was meant to be: a safe-house to express your own thoughts, speech and religion. Our freedoms are what separate America from a lot of the rest of the world. It seems that my generation is taking that for granted.
Millennials would rather be surrounded by a million voices of the same opinion than feel uncomfortable when confronted with realities they don’t agree with. This generation enjoys all the latest technology but would sign away the First Amendment because they don’t understand that innovation comes from challenging the status quo.
Polls have shown that many students support limiting free speech. At public, and sometimes even private schools, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education can offer some help to the silenced voices. However, the court systems take a long time to sort these issues out. It has to be more than administrative paperwork; it is about changing the idea that people can say what they think freely.