Thousands celebrate First Amendment through freedom to tweet
More than 3,600 people participated in the 2012 Free to Tweet scholarship competition, celebrating the 221st birthday of the First Amendment on Dec. 15.
The competition encouraged students nationwide to reflect on the five freedoms of the First Amendment — freedom of speech, press and religion, and the right to assemble and petition — and tweet about one of these core liberties. Each tweet was an entry, with students eligible to win one of five $5,000 scholarships funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
The competition, which was supported by Knight, the First Amendment Center, the Newseum, the American Society of News Editors and Patch, is the second annual celebration of the First Amendment through social media.
News organizations nationwide helped build visibility for the campaign. Especially noteworthy was the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s republication of the full Bill of Rights.
George Mason University’s Office of Student Media held a supplemental Free to Tweet competition, offering a prize for students at the school who participated in the national event.
Sample tweets from the competition (not necessarily winners):
- “The First Amendment applies to all speech, no matter how offensive; just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean you can stifle it.”
- “Without the freedom of press I wouldn’t be able to research the colleges I want to go to.”
- I would like to thank my founding fathers for giving me the chance to speak in a world where people don’t always listen.”
- “Gather together. Stand together. Together let’s make a change.”
- “If you are unhappy with your government, you have the right to demand change. So many take the right of petition for granted.”
Judging of the entries by First Amendment experts and educators has begun and winners will be announced in January. Participants should watch for updates on Twitter by following @freetotweet2012.
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The First Amendment Center is an educational organization and cannot provide legal advice.
Ken Paulson is president of the First Amendment Center and dean of the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University. He is also the former editor-in-chief of USA Today.
Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute, also is senior vice president of the First Amendment Center, a center of the institute. He is a veteran journalist whose career has included work in newspapers, radio, television and online.
John Seigenthaler founded the First Amendment Center in 1991 with the mission of creating national discussion, dialogue and debate about First Amendment rights and values.
Dr. Charles C. Haynes is director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum. He writes and speaks extensively on religious liberty and religion in American public life.
David L. Hudson Jr. is an expert in First Amendment issues and a regular contributor to the First Amendment Center's website. Hudson teaches law and was a scholar at the First Amendment Center.