Teen-2-teen: November 2021

Honor our veterans by knowing the Constitution

Will NelsonThomas Jefferson once proclaimed, “The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution.” I have recently contemplated this quote with much thought. It has resonated with me ever since I saw a poll that the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center conducted, which showed that over one-third of Americans, or roughly 37%, could not name a single right protected by the First Amendment.

The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, the right to peacefully assemble and the freedom of the press. This statistic may be shocking, but at a deeper level, it is somewhat saddening.

As we celebrate Veterans Day this month, we remember the pride of our veterans, who put their lives on the line to protect us and our sacred civil liberties. It is unfortunate so many Americans do not even know what these rights are.

A more unconventional, but important way, to honor our veterans this year would be to brush up on the Constitution. There are numerous resources online, such as the National Archives, the Constitution Center or even iCivics for young students. While the document may seem daunting, you do not need to memorize or know all 27 amendments. Learning and knowing the rights enshrined within our Constitution enables us to be even more grateful for the sacrifices our service members make, and makes us a more civic-minded community.

After all, if you are a teen like me, it is helpful to know your rights when debating with your parents. A teen could say, “You want to search my dresser? Sorry, but the Fourth Amendment protects me from unreasonable search or arrest, and I can say this because of my First Amendment right to the freedom of speech.” You may still lose the debate, however.

Will M. Nelson, 17, is a junior at Jamestown High School, where he is involved in football, swimming, speech, DECA and student council. He enjoys reading, debating and hiking. Will is the son of Stephanie and William Nelson, members of Northern Plains Electric Cooperative.