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Columbia Missourian

DEAR READER: It's my right to tweet what I want

By Tom Warhover
December 14, 2011 | 4:52 p.m. CST

Dear Reader,

Break out the sparklers and the cake: Happy birthday to us. We're 220 years old.

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It's a tweet-able celebration.

On Dec. 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights went into effect. On that day, many Americans (though tragically not all) were guaranteed some of the core freedoms that we enjoy today: the right to bear arms; the protection against unreasonable search and seizure; the right to a fair trial; and trial by jury.

First in my heart and first in the chart is the First Amendment. It's like the jumbo pack at Sam's Club: five freedoms for the price of a single amendment. We have the right to assemble and to petition the government. We have freedom of religion and the press. And we have the right to free speech.

It's almost a requirement for a journalist to love the First Amendment. Freedom of the press is the only business specifically addressed in the Bill of Rights. But if I wanted to, I could argue against amendment No. 1 because I've been given the right to put forward my opinion in public.

The Declaration of Independence freed us from tyranny, but the Bill of Rights gave us the democracy we have today.

It even gives us the Freedom to Tweet.

The only limitation to saying what you want on Twitter is imposed by the company, not the country. Now you can even break the 140-character limit. But I like the challenge.

If you're a Twitter follower, check out #freetotweet. 1 for All, which promotes awareness of the First Amendment, is sponsoring a contest — a tweet-off, I suppose — for students.

Bummer. I'm a couple of years past the age limit of 22. (If I were 22, I probably wouldn't use a word like “bummer.”)

If I could, here's a few I might consider:

I can hear my students howling. Laaamme, Warhover. Well, they're welcome to one-up me.

The American Society of News Editors administers the tweet contest, but 1 for All represents a broader coalition of organizations and people that reflect the breadth of the First Amendment.

Its purpose is pretty simple. Ken Paulson, the president of the First Amendment Center and of the American Society of News Editors, writes:

"The truth is that we don't do a very good job of standing up for the First Amendment. Its five freedoms are truly the cornerstone of democracy and make America the special nation it is.

"It's time we said that. Publicly. Passionately. Over and over again."

Count me in on all three counts. Meantime, I'll keep working on my tweets.

Tom