Sallie Wolper Boyles
The Bill of Rights contains the first 10 Amendments to the US Constitution. Because many of the Framers disagreed over the merit of specifying the fundamental freedoms of We the People, the Bill of Rights did not go into effect until Dec. 15, 1791—four years and nearly three months after the Constitution was ratified. The first 45 words, articulated by James Madison, ensure our freedoms of speech, press, assembly and petition:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
— The First Amendment to the US Constitution
As a new US President takes the Oath of Office and a fresh crop of lawmakers are sworn in, I think about the promises different ones made in speeches to We the People during their campaigns. I wonder which of those elected officials will now endeavor to follow through with their words. (Let’s just say that I am highly cynical.) Maybe most politicians (in general, not in total) express their deeply held beliefs and their true intentions when they run for office, but many seem to espouse whatever it takes to win votes. In fact, by comparing the rhetoric at the beginning of a race with statements a candidate makes towards the end, we can often discern changes—both subtle and substantial—in the person’s manner and purpose.
As a result, for many of us, the word politics conveys a labyrinth of half-truths and deal-making behind the scenes. Frankly, I accept only a fraction of the political speech I hear as sincere; actions define the true portrait of a person. Some, therefore, rise to the occasion, and others fall. Overall, the system works because our Founding Fathers saw to it that We the People, not the politicians, run the show.
Our Republic has thrived on freedom, and it maintains the potential to be healthy as long as We the People have and exercise our right to speak freely. No matter the day or time, we can currently find opinions regarding every issue affecting us as individuals and as a society on the radio, television, and Internet, and in every printed form imaginable. We can carry banners in a protest march. We can publish editorial comments in blogs across America. Most importantly, we can be heard most clearly by voting.
We have the freedom to agree, disagree, or remain silent. We have the freedom to look and listen, or close our eyes and cover our ears.
To preserve our freedoms, We the People have the responsibility to be well-informed and to speak out clearly.
What do you have to say on the subject?
Sallie Wolper Boyles