While I think that many students are aware of the first amendment in the Bill of Rights, a part of the Constitution of the United States, attending this festival gave me the realization about the significance of this amendment that I was unaware of before. In order to receive food, I had to physically sign away my first amendments rights, which challenged my ideas of freedoms granted to citizens in the United States. Despite being a citizen of the United States, I have traveled to more than 30 countries and had difficulty recognizing that other people in the world do not have the same rights and liberties as we do in the US.
Arguably, the First Amendment is also the most important to the maintenance of a democratic government.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Freedom of speech and press allows citizens to communicate their ideas verbally and in writing, while freedom of assembly lets them publicly express a common interest. The right to petition allows citizens to point out to the government where it did not follow the law, to seek changes, as well as damages for such missteps. As a citizen of the United States, it is important to recognize our rights.
The government can't establish a religion, but federal, state and municipal officials can open meetings with a prayer.
The government can't block religious exercise, but it's trying to ban travelers from majority-Muslim countries in the name of national security.
It can't restrict free speech — not even hate speech or flag-burning or protests of military funerals. But don't shout "Fire!" in a theater or threaten anyone on Facebook.
It can't control the media unless it concerns outright lies made with malicious intent.
And peaceful protests are protected, but that doesn't mean the Secret Service can't push you around a little in order to protect the president.
The First Amendment gets to the essence of what it is to be a human—for it is self-evident that we are thinking beings. We use reason to form thoughts, and we think to give meaning to our experiences in light of our basic beliefs. If a government decides to restrict our beliefs, it challenges our ideas of freedom and the flexibility that humans have to create their own ideas and form their own opinions.