My husband and I have been watching the PBS special entitled “Our National Parks, America’s Best Idea.” Obviously, they are not “America’s Best Idea,” but they are the result of the true best idea, a nation created by the people, of the people, for the people.
Ken Burns’ wonderful documentary tells the history of the parks relating how dedication to this cause overcame tremendous pressures from private interests who wanted to log, mine, develop, or otherwise exploit these national treasures.
This documentary is an example of journalism at its best with the story told not only through wonderful pictures, but through direct quotes from the people most involved.
It also illustrates that all of our rights, conceived in this country’s Constitution and its First Amendment, must be continually guarded by dedicated individuals so that self-interest does not prevail.
Dedicated individuals have fought for this freedom since our country was conceived and we still need to be diligent and willing to stand up to the challenges sometimes disguised in attractive packages.
Nature’s erosion caused the Grand Canyon, not all at once but over centuries. Rights can be eroded away by self-interest unless people notice and care. Erosion of rights is subtle but the results can be significant.
Free Speech is what safeguards these rights alerting the people to this often subtle erosion. Strong journalism programs in our schools are one of the best ways to teach students the importance of free speech in a free society. Journalism teachers are often the ones who need to protect that speech and we need to celebrate their dedication just as this documentary celebrates the dedication of people like John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt.
Without these dedicated journalism educators and others like the lawyers at the Student Press Law Center and the leaders in our professional organizations, students would not be learning first hand the importance of free speech in a free society.
I congratulate these dedicated people and urge everyone who reads this to join with them in working to preserve these essential rights.
Nation Parks are a wonderful heritage, but our young people are the future of our country.
Fern Valentine, MJEread more