When someone tells you to "please shut up", I hope you take offense to that. When your voice is silenced, when your paper is censored, when your words are shoved into "restricted areas", locked away in vaults, I hope your blood boils. If these things have ever happened to you, know that your voice has been snatched out of your throat. Your human right has been violated.
This speech is meant to encourage the whole human race to use their own words. This speech is for those who've lost their voice, perhaps lost their will to speak, in fear of what others might think, in fear of what others might do to them. And it is tragic that today we must face the fact that yes: some of us, some of our words, are being blotted out.
Speech. Communication. It's the binary code in this supercomputer of the world. Yet unfortunately, it's not always easy to be heard. Far too often, people automatically shoot down opinions contradicting their own, they cover their ears and never try to understand the other point of view.
And yet, here's the thing.
Whenever you read an article, or see a post on social media that opposes your beliefs...you are witnessing the miracle of human diversity. I know, it's hard to not just immediately go on a rant about how wrong they are, but take a minute.
You and this person disagree. And yet, you can coexist peacefully. Isn't that wonderful, almost inconceivable?
You can accept each other's words. Both of you are free to write whatever you want, both of you are free to express your feelings, and both of you are free to speak. And it's when networks and organizations start banning posts, banning users and employees, that we teeter-totter on the edge of a dangerous precipice, one that drops off into a chasm of totalitarianism.
This is the power of words, the power that sends government and companies into a frenzy, the power that threatens dictators, the power that can change minds. Any fool can fight; it takes a genius to win a war with words. Using force is easy, persuasion is harder.
True freedom, however, does come with responsibility. And so it is with true freedom of speech. I hope your parents and mentors all taught you to be decent, civil human beings, because without some sense of morals, words can't tug on people's consciences. And if we can raise our future children to be rational thinkers, to be able to identify rhetorical fallacies, errors in logic, tools of persuasion...we may not have to worry about "censoring" and "silencing", because they will be able to figure out for themselves what is valid and what is not. They will be able to differentiate the babbling idiot from the one who has something substantial to say.
We can teach future generations how to understand, how to discern; instead of teaching them what to think, we can teach them how to think.
Sadly, even this does not happen today.
Indoctrination lurks beneath us, subtly crushing people's voices. Teachers are being told what they can and can't say in their classrooms, journalists are being kicked out by their bosses for just stating their opinion, speakers are banned from colleges. Often under the banner of "political correctness", this suppresses the human right to speak their mind.
Let the people talk, and let the audience decide for themselves whether they will agree or disagree, whether they will follow, or oppose, preferably with some well-crafted words as well.
Humans can make judgments, and once we can't think for ourselves, then what are we? Lemmings following each other off the edge of the cliff? Mindless zombies? Perhaps even worse. The Chinese government is infamous for its mass censoring of journalists, history textbooks, social media, and we sympathize with those who have been thrown in jail for daring to speak out.
Let us not come anywhere close to what happens there, let us not attack or mob someone just for using their words. No matter your worldview, you deserve to be heard. The world is your stage and you have your podium; take to the Internet, take to your social media, start a podcast, start a blog.
The world isn't perfect though, and perhaps you will get hate, you will face the oppressors, you will be shunned. But don't let that stop you. Even great scientists such as Copernicus and Galileo were suppressed, sometimes put under house arrest, before their discoveries were accepted.
As someone who wants to become a speech therapist, I want to help other people find their own unique voice. As someone who's always been the quiet person, easily drowned out by others, I know what it's like to feel as though what I say doesn't matter. That nobody's listening.
But words do matter.
And the worst thing you can do is to have a voice and not use it.
So talk. Write. Sing. Scream. Communicate. And listen to others.
Use your words not your fists. Use your rhetoric not stones and sticks.
From the moment you thought your first thought, communicated your first opinion or idea...you held power.
The power of words.
Wield it well.