A Monumental Week for Free Speech
This week’s events make it the perfect week to discuss free speech and the role the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Center to Protect Free Speech will play in the years to come.
On Monday, January 16, America celebrated a man who showed the nation—and the world—what the power of one voice can achieve. Even with few, if any, political, civil or basic human rights, Dr. Martin Luther King and thousands of Americans used their voice and their First Amendment rights to organize and demand the United States once and for all live up to the principles established by the Constitution.
The United States still has a long way to go to realize Dr. King’s dream, but there is no doubt that the nation has made incredible progress since his murder in 1968. There is no denying that the First Amendment (and free speech specifically), played a major role in what Dr. King was able to achieve and what generations of Americans are now able to do because of his voice and sacrifice. From sit-ins and protests, to marches, boycotts, and yes, a speech about a dream at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, free speech made America come to terms with its hypocrisy and showed the world what one voice can achieve. On April 3, 1968 in what would be his final speech, MLK articulated why America’s system of government is different and why it is the duty of the American people to hold the government accountable:
“If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand…the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.”
Dr. King was absolutely right. What makes America great is the right to assemble, organize, and speak freely. Dr. King’s legacy is not just one of racial equality, but a lesson in what can be achieved by simply committing oneself to the principles outlined in the United States Constitution.
On Friday, America will witness another Constitutional phenomenon: the peaceful transfer of power from one head of state to another. On January 20th, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. As he places his hand on the Bible and solemnly swears to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, in the background will be thousands and thousands of protesters (hopefully) peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights for (and against) the President-elect. It will truly be a beautiful sight to see.
This is an important time for the Center to Protect Free Speech. With the balance of power in new hands, free speech protections are just as important now as they were at the last transition. It is the duty of all Americans, regardless of which party or person holds power, to ensure that power is limited and the voice of the people is protected. The Center is ready to work with people who are committed to the Jeffersonian principles of limited government, free markets and federalism.
 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Sanitation Workers’ Strike, April 3, 1968