VIDEO: Young: Importance of Free Speech for Hoosiers
Click here or the image above to view Senator Young’s remarks.
WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) spoke on the Senate Floor about the importance of free speech in America.
“A totalitarian regime’s greatest ally is darkness and silence. Keeping a people in the dark is the surest way to guarantee they never demand their God-given rights. Because just a trickle of information, just a hint of truth, a small offering of differing perspectives, and a touch of freedom of expression helped lead to the Soviet Union’s demise. Free people become and stay free through open dialogue because of the free-exchange of information and ideas, even ones we disagree with, because of patience with perspectives that are not our own. Because we study our history and celebrate its highs and learn from its lows.
“Beginning today, I will be regularly recognizing notable pieces of Indiana’s history. It may be through a floor speech, or a resolution, or a social media post. The purpose here will be to celebrate and better understand my state’s part of America’s story, and to remember the Hoosiers who, through and because of freedom of action, speech, and expression, wrote that,” said Senator Young.
Click here to view Senator Young’s full remarks.
Full remarks as prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, freedom, is the freedom to say two plus two makes four, if that is granted, all else follows, so wrote novelist George Orwell.
In the late 1980’s I traveled to the Soviet Union as part of a junior high school soccer program.
Decades have passed since the trip, but the memories are still vivid. Shelves were barren, citizens drank from communal water fountains.
The items most in demand, and hardest to find, were American: blue jeans and bubble gum.
Of course, those were not the only common things in Indiana that were contraband behind the Iron Curtain.
For decades, news, literature, art or entertainment not broadcast or approved by the state was scarce and available only by bootleg; the monuments towering over Russia were built to honor those who controlled it – the same men who regularly erased parts of its history to suit their political purposes.
This was a society where ideas and dialogue existed only underground.
Where watching American movies was a jailable offense.
Where free thinkers were not found in newspapers or airwaves, but locked away in labor camps.
Where information protected the state instead of empowering individuals.
Where history was constantly purged and revised.
By the time I visited, though, Soviet leadership, in self-preservation mode, had gradually allowed citizens access to information and media as new technologies emerged.
It was only a ray of sunlight through a small crack; but through it people all across Russia and the Eastern Block could see and hear what was hidden from them…
Jazz and rock n’ roll, Star Wars and Chuck Norris, Doctor Zhivago and Robinson Crusoe.
History once erased was restored, the truth of Stalin’s murders revealed.
Inevitably the weakness of the fatal conceit of a centrally planned Communist economy was exposed and larger numbers of Russians realized how poorly their quality of life compared to the western alternative. And they were even permitted rights to express their dissatisfaction with it.
A totalitarian regime’s greatest ally is darkness and silence. Keeping a people in the dark is the surest way to guarantee they never demand God-given rights.
But just a trickle of information, a small offering of differing perspectives and a touch of freedom of expression helped lead to the Soviet Union’s demise.
Free people become and stay free because of open dialogue, because of the free-exchange of information and ideas, even ones we disagree with because of patience with perspectives that are not our own, because we study our history and celebrate its highs and learn from its lows.
That is why it was painful to read recently that over 60 percent of Americans are now scared to admit their beliefs or air their opinions for fear of offending others and the consequences that come with it.
Painful to learn, but easy to understand.
This is the logical reaction when Americans are regularly canceled for things said or written decades ago with no chance of grace or allowance of growth.
It’s not just people who are being canceled. It’s words and music too.
Classrooms and libraries are banning “Huckleberry Finn” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” rather than encouraging students to examine or understand their authors’ words.
“Hamilton” is falling from grace for the sin of acknowledging America was created in 1776.
And whole parts of our history are being wiped away.
Communities have a right to lawfully determine who and what adorns their squares and streets.
But that is a world away from toppling statues of George Washington and U.S. Grant in the same manner those of Lenin and Stalin were removed at the end of the Cold War.
And our entertainment industry is getting in on the act too: American movies once inspired freedom seekers. Today they are self-censored to appease another authoritarian regime in Beijing as it puts them down.
America is a good nation. Those who call it home are decent and kind. We are not perfect, but our imperfections are not irredeemable.
2020 has made it clear though that work remains in the task of building a more perfect union.
That effort is ongoing; every generation since our founding has worked towards it. And every generation has made hard-earned progress.
And our own work to create a more just future will be no less difficult – certainly more so than knocking down bronze and marble men, or waging war on books or on each other across social media.
Every time our nation has moved closer to better realizing the promise at the heart of our Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, it’s been because the founders dared to dream that was possible and left us the means to make it so.
The freedom to raise our voices and state our opinions, to disagree and debate.
The gift of free inquiry.
The right to challenge our country on towards what Martin Luther King Jr. called its “noble dream” through words, music, art, or expression…all free from censorship and recrimination.
These liberties, unparalleled in human history, were won, preserved and handed down to us by many of those whose memorials are falling.
Out of gratitude, we must remember the men and women who came before us, see their faults but not lose sight of their virtues, and aspire to the high ideals they set – even if they often fell short of realizing them.
What will we have without these freedoms, without memory and understanding of our past? Desolate public spaces, empty bookshelves, silenced citizens with nothing to strive for other than self-preservation.
But with these freedoms and inspired by our history, valuable debate and dialogue will flourish, daring ideas will be welcome, and great ideals will live.
And the work we are in, the work of building a more perfect union and a freer and fairer nation will be possible. Let this be the path we choose.
It would be natural to close with a quote by one of our several generations of founding fathers – Washington, Lincoln, King. But today it feels appropriate to remember another nation’s founder and a good American friend.
A man who lived behind the Iron Curtain and knew well the dangers of censorship and the power of free expression. As a playwright and musician, he suffered under censorship, as a leader he helped his nation gain the latter.
It was exactly thirty years ago that Vaclav Havel, then president of Czechoslovakia, spoke in this building.
“You have thousands of problems of all kinds, as other countries do,” he observed of America.
“But you have one great advantage,” he reminded us, “you have been approaching democracy for more than two hundred years, and your journey toward that horizon has never been disrupted by a totalitarian system.”
America’s journey continues on towards that horizon – And only we have the power to disrupt it.
In this Nation, two plus two must always equal four.
We can take a positive step forward in one respect.
Here’s how. Beginning today, I will be regularly recognizing notable pieces of Indiana’s history. It may be through a floor speech, or a resolution, or social media. To celebrate and better understand my state’s part of America’s story, and the Hoosiers who, through and because of freedom of action, speech, and expression, wrote it.
They will not be erased.
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