They can bring to life, and they can destroy. They can triumph over the greatest barriers, and they can construct the tallest walls. They make an appearance at the birth of a child, and they somberly grieve at the passing of our beloved.
They have a power that nothing can surpass, a glory that nothing can take away. Many have tried to hinder intellectuals, oppress geniuses, and silence those that were born to be heard. History can tell us that at first, people might acquiesce to such subjugation. Because of race or class or gender, groups of people have been not just discouraged but brutally forced to remain silent by their oppressors throughout all of human history. These people, whether they were (or are) Christians in the face of religious persecution, women muffled by a society that deemed them unworthy, non-Europeans living in racial discrimination, or anyone else throughout history who had their rights stripped from them and their lives torn apart at the seams, these people have and continue to overcome.
Sometimes, humanity resorts to violence. Many would argue that in certain cases, brutality is necessary.
But other times, it is communication that prevails. The Edict of Milan, a proclamation consisting of words, allowed Christianity to be tolerated within the Roman Empire. The nineteenth amendment allowed for women to speak politically in America after being silenced for so long. The Emancipation Proclamation broke the resolve of the Confederation, the case of Brown v. Board of Education outlawed segregation in America, and Martin Luther King Junior’s words of love and dreams brought the American public to tears, softening hearts of stone.
Many still live in a state of oppression today, and maybe no combination of letters and no declaration of words is going to change that. But communication is what has led people from darkness, and lack thereof is what has kept people from the light.
Words have power. Today in America, we are privileged to be able to speak them, for the most part, however we please. The Bill of Rights grants us a power to make words our own. No one can stop us from insulting that girl that we don’t like. We can’t be arrested for generalizing about a culture or saying hateful comments about an entire people. The police will not come after us for saying something erroneous or invalid. We can use words to hurt or to wrong.
But we can use words to raise up. We Americans will not be taken captive for evangelizing and spreading morals to those who have never before heard the Word of God. We will not serve a life sentence for writing a poem to the person we love. We cannot be placed in chains for giving a speech that invokes such emotion within our audience that they decide to go out into the world and be better people.
As members of the human race, we have a choice. We may take the words we have been given and run with them, changing the world and progressing thought, raising up the lowly and the oppressed, or we may not. We are privileged enough to have a freedom, given to us by God in our free will and established as a right under our United States Constitution. Words have a power, and we have a choice. It is our responsibility to take on this freedom, to accept this power, and to do right by those who do not have it.