'Free to Tweet' celebrates First Amendment
WASHINGTON — During a daylong online celebration of First Amendment rights, high school and college students nationwide can win one of 22 $5,000 scholarships through "Free to Tweet" on Dec. 15, the 220th anniversary of our right to free expression.
Beginning at midnight on Dec. 15, students ages 14 to 22 can tweet their support for the First Amendment with the hashtag #freetotweet, which will enter them in the "Free to Tweet" scholarship competition. Students are encouraged to freely express themselves in their entries, which can be posted on any publicly viewable social media platform, including blogs.
The initiative is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and organized by 1 for All, an unprecedented educational and public service campaign that builds understanding of the First Amendment and its five distinct freedoms: speech, press, religion, assembly and petition.
The Knight Foundation's recently released "Future of the First Amendment" survey indicates that young people who use social media have a better understanding of First Amendment freedoms.
"It matters what young people say about the First Amendment, because each generation re-interprets these fundamental rights, often using the latest tools and technologies," said Michael Maness, vice president of journalism and media innovation for Knight Foundation. "Today's high school and college students are tomorrow's defenders of the First Amendment and all the other freedoms set forth in the Bill of Rights."
All Americans are urged to join the online celebration by tweeting their support for the First Amendment and help reinvigorate the often-overlooked Bill of Rights Day. In late November of 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Dec. 15 a national holiday on the 150th anniversary of the amendments' adoption, declaring Americans "will not, under any threat … surrender the guarantee of liberty our forefathers framed for us in our Bill of Rights." Just days later, Pearl Harbor was attacked and the United States entered World War II. The holiday declaration was largely forgotten.
"December 15 is the anniversary of the day America embraced the First Amendment and the entire Bill of Rights, but unfortunately it is all but forgotten as a national holiday," said Ken Paulson, a founder of the 1 for All campaign and president of the American Society of News Editors. "'Free to Tweet' is a dynamic, multiplatform effort to rekindle appreciation for freedoms we dare not take for granted."
Joining in support of 1 for All and the "Free to Tweet" campaign are such artists as Ke$ha, Joe Nichols, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Civil Wars, Sarah Jarosz, Jana Kramer and Frankie Ballard. Other celebrity tweeters will be announced in coming weeks.
Students can enter the scholarship competition by tweeting a message of support — using the hashtag #freetotweet — for the First Amendment. The tweet can be self-contained or link to original content on a website or other social media platform. A panel of educators and First Amendment experts will review the entries and award 22 $5,000 scholarships, one for every decade since the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Judging criteria and complete rules can be found at www.1forall.us/freetotweet/.
As part of 1 for All's daylong celebration of the First Amendment on Dec. 15, the Newseum will host a conference for educators on how to use social media to teach about freedom of expression. The event will also be webcast and available to teachers nationwide.