First Amendment Day

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The Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of the Press, Freedom to Assemble Peaceably, and Freedom to Petition the Government. These are the five freedoms guaranteed to each and every citizen of the United States because of the First Amendment.

But who actually knows these freedoms? According to a survey done by Newseum Institute, “only 57 percent of their sample knew the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech.” That’s crazy considering it’s probably the most known freedom in the United States. It’s much worse for the other four freedoms though. 19 percent knew it guaranteed freedom of religion, 10 percent knew it guaranteed freedom of the press and right of assembly. Only 2 percent knew it gave them the right to petition.

Iowa State University, specifically the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, has been holding First Amendment Day for 14 years to help students learn the rights they are promised within the First Amendment so they aren’t a part of this issue.

The celebration will be this week, Thursday, April 21.

I talked to Matt Wettengel, Greenlee’s communication specialist, about what the Greenlee School was doing this year to draw in more students and make the experience the best they can. Matt said they’ve done a lot of outreach this year, especially to high schools in the area and that they are expecting a pretty good high school student turnout this year. They’ve also been asking ISU students what they want to see at the celebration to make it better.

Dylan Boyle speaks to the crowd on the steps of Beardshear Hall on Thursday, April 7 after the First Amendment Day Freedom March a previous First Amendment Day.Photo: Kelsey Kremer

Greenlee is also doing a “Freedom March,” from 9-10 a.m. Basically, the march starts at Hamilton Hall (where the school of journalism and mass communications is located) and winds around campus, stopping at designated areas to present the group with a dilemma. They must lose one of their five freedoms, until eventually, they run out of them. This simulation is being done to show participants what it’s like to live without the rights we have.

Greenlee is then doing “Feast on the First,” from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Central Campus. which is exactly what it sounds like. Free food. This year, the food of choice is Jimmy Johns.

So, obviously there’s a catch, right? Not really. Greenlee students and faculty just want whoever comes to learn their five freedoms while they grab food and to remember them after they’ve walked away. On top of food, Greenlee is giving away a limited amount of free t-shirts and other promotional items to people that stop by. The theme this year is, “Know your freedoms, use your voice,” so expect to see that on all of your free stuff!

There will then be a keynote speaker, Steve Thomma, at 7 p.m. in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union to talk about “The Press, the Presidency, and the Campaign.”

For more information, go to to check out the schedule for yourself! You have a lot to gain and nothing to lose by going so give it a shot! It never hurts to learn more about your rights and freedoms, especially with free food involved!

Posted by: Jake Neerland