1 For All not just for the Three Musketeers

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ask any American what the most important document in our nation’s history is and you will likely get a variety of answers.

The Bible would make the list, but this is really the most important document overall and not just for America, so it should just be put at the top of a different list.

The Declaration of Independence could make a strong case too but it really is more symbolic than actually functional.

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The Constitution clearly wins, but the problem is only a small percentage of people would say this. And even less would be able to tell you why and what it contains.

Ken Paulson, president of the First Amendment Center and former editor of USA TODAY, had it right when he said “the most powerful passage in America’s history can be found in the First Amendment to the Constitution. … Its freedoms are truly the cornerstone of democracy and make America the special nation it is.”

But the problem is that cornerstone erodes with ambivalence, apathy and ignorance. If we don’t work to strengthen this knowledge and understanding, the entire foundation and principles on which our nation is based become less impactful and relevant.

The First Amendment gave Americans the right speak their minds, to print things that may not be popular or favorable to government, to peacefully gather and protest, to petition the government and to practice any religion they see fit.

The First Amendment impacts every citizen on a daily basis, but in ways that are often subtle and not so obvious.

I’m sure someone will point out that The Tribune doesn’t support the First Amendment because we place limits on what is said in its online comments.

That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Nothing is absolute and all are freedom have a variety of limits and stipulations placed on them.

We respect freedom of speech to the fullest but also have to be cognizant of individuals’ other rights.

And, although everyone should stand up and fight for the First Amendment, the media certainly must do its part. And do better than we have in the past.

That is what is driving 1 For All, a national campaign to show how this one amendment impacts each and every one of us every single day.

As Paulson said, “It’s the one that truly guarantees freedom for all.”

This initiative is supported by a wide range of groups, all of which care about our freedoms.

Its mission statement goes like this: “1 for All is a national nonpartisan program designed to build understanding and support for First Amendment freedoms. 1 for All provides teaching materials to the nation’s schools, supports educational events on America’s campuses and reminds the public that the First Amendment serves everyone, regardless of faith, race, gender or political leanings. It is truly one amendment for all.”

This is a worthy project that every American can play a role in by getting involved, learning more about the First Amendment and teaching our youth what it means.

The Three Musketeers stood “all for one.” Americans must stand “1 For All.”

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.