The First Amendment is crucial to the college years

Megan Burnett

A few years ago on the general CSU scholarship application, the main essay question was, “What is your favorite part of the U.S. Constitution, and why”? Although I consider myself a patriot, and a lover of all things American, I thought this essay question was pretty corny and I had a hard time writing a response for it.

However, if you were to ask me the same question today, I’d say without skipping a beat that the most important part of the Constitution is the First Amendment.

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Again, an equally corny response to a corny question.

Ever since I’ve started writing for the Collegian, I have been able to express my thoughts and opinions in a way I have never dreamed of, protected under the First Amendment. I know my opinions are not the most popular on many college campus, but to me, that makes it more important that they are heard in a public forum.

I have definitely had my fair share of backlash for things that I have written, but despite that, I am not apologetic for it. It is important that opinion articles published in the Collegian and any other news source generate discussion surrounding relevant social and political issues in our society today. The press is a protected platform for the exchange of ideas in America. We learn from each other by expressing these thoughts and opinions, and grow as people because of it.

It is especially important to promote this exchange of ideas on a college campus. College is a time for young people to expand their ideologies and form their own identities. Students have the opportunity to learn how to think for themselves and form their own opinions about the world around them — a world we will soon inherit as our own as the next generation of world leaders. 

It is not beneficial, however, to attack folks whose ideas different than their own. This does not generate discussion and the exchange of new opinions and ideas. Hostility creates fear. If we form a society where we shut others down for having ideas that are not popular, then people will be too scared to express their own ideologies. To lend any credibility to an argument, one must leave behind any emotional rhetoric and stick to the facts.

Recently, I received a phone call from a politically influential woman named Michelle Morin. This woman inspired me and encouraged me in that I should not be afraid to express my ideas; that it is a right I have in this country, a right not available to some outside of this country. She inspired me to write this column, and my goal is to urge everyone to not be afraid to express their own opinions, even if it causes backlash. You can read more about Morin and her accomplishments here.

To sum up in one corny bit of advice: always stand up for what you believe in, even if what you believe in is not popular.

Collegian Columnist Megan Burnett can be reached at letters@collegian.com, or on Twitter @megsbcollegian.