Mayor's Message: Our Right to Freedom of Speech

thumb-mayors-message-may2023By Mayor Trent Staggs

On April 12, we had the opportunity to welcome former Utah Jazz star Enes Kanter Freedom to Riverton and present him with the inaugural Mayor’s Freedom Award for his courageous commitment to human rights and free speech.

Over the last five years, Freedom has become a prominent advocate for freedom of speech and human rights. He has used his platform as a professional athlete to defend and advance the cause of freedom against the challenges of today, both here at home and across the globe. Enes relentlessly addresses the lack of civic freedoms experienced in Turkey and Venezuela and condemns China’s atrocities against the people of the Uyghur, Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

His bravery and unwavering commitment to speak up on behalf of others who cannot speak for themselves has not come without a cost. Enes’s native country of Turkey has issued nearly a dozen warrants for his arrest, placed a $500,000 bounty on his head, revoked his Turkish citizenship and has received numerous threats on his life. Government leaders even forced his parents to publicly disown him. Despite all of this, Enes has refused to be silent and continues to fight for what he believes.

Many in this world don’t have the same basic rights Americans have inherited. Enes knows how important this is, because he grew up in a country that doesn’t protect free speech. Everyone should have the freedom to express their opinions without the fear of retribution.

As mayor, I feel it is my responsibility to promote an environment where each Riverton resident feels empowered to share their own thoughts and beliefs. I am committed to helping residents better understand this fundamental right that comes from our Creator.

Our Founding Fathers recognized the importance of free speech when they drafted the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This amendment protects our right to express ourselves freely, without fear of censorship or reprisal. It has become a cornerstone of our representative democracy and a vital component of our free nation, though it is under attack today.

Increasingly in the U.S., the false religion of wokeness wants to label “freedom of speech” as blasphemy. You can be granted your freedom for the “right agenda,” but not on protected topics or against moneyed interests. Americans should be the biggest ambassadors on calling out injustice, hypocrisy and propaganda. People need to think for themselves. Money shouldn’t buy silence. People should be able to say obvious truths.

It is critical for each of us who are blessed to live in this country that protects our God-given freedom to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves—no matter the sacrifice. Allowing citizens to speak their minds and share their opinions is crucial for promoting innovation, creativity and progress. Without the freedom to express ourselves, we cannot engage in meaningful debate, make informed decisions or hold those in power accountable.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech.”

As many groups look to censor opinions and quiet those whose beliefs differ, I hope we can look to the example of Enes Kanter Freedom and defend and uphold our right to free speech. It is our duty as citizens to remember and preserve this freedom.

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