First Amendment very necessary

Published 7:05 pm Thursday, January 25, 2018

Tuesday night, I attended the American Legion’s local oratory contest.

Seven high school students were tasked with giving an eight- to 10-minute prepared speech on the constitution and the impact it had on their lives.

The speeches varied from taxation, to voting rights and gun laws, but the one that jumped out to me the most was the student who chose to talk about the First Amendment.

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His topic centered on freedom of speech and the right to protest, but as I listened to his speech it got me thinking about just how important the First Amendment is in my life.

The Bill of Rights were ratified in 1791, 201 years before I was born, but this single amendment provides the very protections that enables democracy to flourish and that enables me to practice my career.

Protected in the 45 words that make up the amendment are the freedom of press and the freedom of religion. As a reporter and Catholic, both of these things are incredibly important in my day-to-day life.

In recent years, those two protections have become all the more important and all the more endangered.

Being certain religions has become a crime in parts of the world and nearly a test of immigration to our country. The freedom to practice the religion of your choice is the very foundation of why pilgrims moved to this land and laid the foundation for our country. For it to come under fire is hard to watch.

Even more embattled is the freedom of the press, though. As the media, of which I am a member, becomes more and more consolidated into fewer and fewer owners, the diversity of opinion and coverage has eroded. The media has also come under attack from the highest powers as “fake news” has become prevalent lexicon to label not only actual false news, but also any story that disagrees with you.

For our country to flourish and exist, the freedom of the press is paramount. There is a reason there is a reporter from The Vicksburg Post at every public meeting that occurs in town. It is our duty to keep those in elected positions accountable and in check.

The tag for The Washington Post is Democracy Dies in Darkness. We are the light that shows what is happening behind the curtain. Larry Nassar, the former team doctor for U.S. Gymnastics, was just sentenced for assaulting more than 150 girls. It was reporting by the Indianapolis Star that brought that story to light.

It was the Boston Globe that revealed the sexual assault scandal within the Catholic Church. Time and time again, it is reporters who bring abuse, corruption and more into the limelight.

Democracy truly does die in the darkness and the first amendment is the battery that powers our flashlight.

Brandon O’Connor is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at