Morgan Holdmeyer | Guest Reporter
As Americans, we have lots of rights – free speech, free press, free protest, among many more. Our rights allow us to think, speak and act as we please. Yet, these freedoms did not come free. The Declaration of Independence did not write itself and the Revolutionary War did not fight itself – Americans before us had to work hard for the liberties we have today. However, the fight is still not over; even today we are fighting to expand our freedom. Although today’s effort might not involve cannon balls and cavalry riders, we can exercise our right to think, speak and act to expand our independence.
The backbone of our government is the people, so for the government to truly work for the people, the people must be able to form their own thoughts about the government. While it seems it would be hard to restrict another human’s thoughts, governments can do this in many ways. In some countries, the citizens are kept dependent (and ignorant) with censored and biased information sources that force them to think a certain way. This gives the government power over the people’s minds and power to do as they please without much question. In America, we have access to a wide variety of uncensored sources of information, including those about our government.
As Thomas Jefferson put it in the Declaration of Independence, “Governments… derive their power from the consent of the governed.” If people cannot understand the government, they cannot truly support it. If the people cannot support the government, they also cannot question it; they cannot work to reform it, and the government has limited power. Those who can think for themselves can use their ability to criticize the government to make the government more effective. Citizens who properly exercise their right to think freely, who form their own ideas for solutions, help the problem-solving process along. But if we do not offer a solution to the problem, we just become a part of it. If no one even attempts to address the problem, the government will just continue in the same manner and nothing gets fixed; our freedom will not change.
For the government to truly work for the people, the people must be able to make heard their own thoughts about the government. When we find error in our government and decide that we want to do something about it, we have the right to turn our thoughts into words. Free speech allows us to share our message with others. In doing so, our thoughts may spark ideas in others. The goal of speaking out about an issue is to bring awareness about the issue at hand and to convince people to join in the conversation. Without widespread acknowledgment, not much is going to get changed, especially on a governmental level. However, the way in which we make our thoughts heard is key in garnering support. “Not only should criticism be honest, but it should be intelligent, in order to be effective…sweeping charges really do very little good,” (Roosevelt). What he means is that we cannot just attack the other side as this does not effectively make our point. The core of our argument should not be an attack on the government, or a long rant about the issue, but should rather be an explanation of our thought process and an offering of ideas for problem solving.
For the government to truly work for the people, the people’s actions must be noticed.
Sometimes calling out a problem is not enough to grab the government’s attention. In his inaugural address, JFK pledges, “a new alliance for progress to convert our good words into good deeds.” Words without action are nothing but empty promises. To convince the government to move forward, we must prove to them we are serious in our efforts. Actions speak louder than words. When someone can see and hear our efforts, we will be taken much more seriously. One of the most basic forms of action is exercising the right to vote. From there, we can take action in other forms . We can exercise our right of free press to spread our word and exercise our freedom of protest to spread our action. This may include writing petitions, organizing groups, distributing support material, demonstrating, volunteering, and more. Our actions do not have to be grandiose and bold, but we must start somewhere. We must also take into consideration the fact that the level of effort we put into our actions produces the same level of effect; minimal effort on our behalf will yield very little consideration from our government.
For the government to truly work for the people, we must be sure to exercise our rights properly. The rights we have today that allow our independence can be exercised to fight for the expansion of our liberties. Though we have many more freedoms than those generations before us, the strive for freedom is not yet over. Change must occur in the government to truly allow for equality, but we must cause the change. We the people must take an active role in the problem-solving process by exercising our right to think, speak and act freely in order to fight for our freedoms.