When did it become wrong to express your opinion? When did it become acceptable for someone with a different opinion than yours to personally attack you and attempt to discredit you?
On December 15, 1791, The United States of America added the Bill of Rights to our constitution. One of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights is the right to freedom of speech. Many patriots of old and every member of our military have put their lives on the line to defend our rights – our right to free speech. Many have died to insure that each American has the right to express their opinion freely.
And, America is not the only country that protects freedom of speech. In fact, you can find references to freedom of speech in early human rights documents, such as:
- England’s Bill of Rights 1689
- The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which were adopted in 1789 during the French Revolution
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
- European Convention on Human Rights
- African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Alexander Meiklejohn, a philosopher, university administrator, and freedom of speech advocate, points out that democracy is that of self-government by the people. If democracy is to work, we must be informed. How can we be informed if we choose to block out and attack anyone who shares information that we disagree with?
Just as having people in your organization that have different personality types is vital to the success of the organization, I would also think that having people around you with different opinions is vital to you becoming knowledgeable and able to formulate your own educated viewpoint.
There are some limitations on your right to speak your mind. You can’t go around libeling or slandering someone. There are both common law and criminal law exceptions to free speech. The following are just some items not permitted:
- Incitement to riot
- Items protected by copyright law
- Terrorist threats
- False advertising
But, nowhere can I find that it is illegal to share your opinion on a political candidate’s platform, a tax proposal, a new business product, a proposed regulation or just an idea of how to improve your city, county, state or country. Ideas are the lifeblood of a successful organization.
We’ve all heard the statement that “knowledge is power”, but what exactly does that mean? To me, it means that when you open yourself up to learning new things you will be able to make better decisions. Hopefully, those better decisions will improve your life, the lives of those around you. Knowledge leads to more options.
Today, we need as many options as we can get. We have big problems to solve – business problems, drug problems, infrastructure problems, political problems and more. But, without information we will not have the knowledge that we need to solve those problems in the most advantageous way. How do we get that information? I believe it’s by listening to others.
There are many brilliant people in this world and why would we not take advantage of hearing their thoughts and their ideas so that we can come to the best decisions?