Think F1rst

What does the First Amendment mean to you and how does it affect your life as an American?
That’s a question not often asked in today’s society, but the results of a recent poll which asked young people that very thing was alarming to say the least. According to a civics survey taken by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, four in 10 students couldn’t name even one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.
That’s not good. In fact, it’s shocking to think that a whole new generation of Americans may not understand or appreciate the freedoms that let them do what they want to do, say what they want to say, worship in whatever manner they so choose and in general live in a society founded on principles of freedom.
The First Amendment is fairly short, but its impact on American life is immeasurable. The words are worth reviewing -- “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.”
It goes without saying that newspapers have a strong, vested interest in the First Amendment as a member of the Fourth Estate. Freedom of the press is one of the five pillars, though it is seemingly under attack these days amidst a growing lack of trust with the media, fueled in part by fake news writers pushing false narratives.
The Nebraska Press Association, of which the News-Register is a proud member, has therefore joined with other members of Media of Nebraska in launching a campaign specifically aimed at young people ages 17-24, with a goal of raising their awareness. The “Think F1rst” campaign will use statewide social media, including Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube, to help explain what many scholars agree is the most important component of our democracy. For more information, go to ThinkFirstAmendment.org.
School may be out for the summer, but this is one lesson that young people should not only understand, but truly embrace as to its impact on their young lives. What better time to kick off this campaign than Independence Day!
Kurt Johnson

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