Slice of nice: Dec 1, 2011

Story by Taylor Kuether

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Taylor’s Slice of Nice is a semester-long recurring column that features positive things happening around the globe and takes a look at how we can implement them locally. 

 

What they’re cooking up:

This week’s Slice takes us to a Kansas town called Prairie Village, where high school senior Emma Sullivan exercised her First Amendment rights even after being called to the principal’s office.

Sullivan tweeted that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback “sucked” last week because she disagreed with his views on gay rights and abortion. During a routine search for the governor’s name on social media sites, the governor’s communications director Sherienne Jones-Sontag found Sullivan’s tweet and contacted her school to demand an apology.

Sullivan was summoned to the principal’s office and ordered to draft a letter of apology to the governor. But instead, she … didn’t.

“I wasn’t sorry for what I said because I meant it,” Sullivan said in an interview with Yahoo! News.

Sullivan’s statement may sound like the whinings of a wronged teenager, but she’s right, and she knew it. Her First Amendment right to free speech protected her statement about the governor.

Ultimately, Gov. Brownback extended an apology of his own: “My staff overreacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize,” he said in a statement to The Associated Press.

 

How it can be homemade:

We can all learn something from Sullivan. No, not to toss around words like “sucks” when tweeting about the governor, but to stand our ground when we know our rights.

With the recent activism that has swept the country — from budget repair bill protests across Wisconsin back in February to the Occupy movement that has spread and made headlines from coast to coast — young people are finally expressing themselves (though sometimes not articulately, as cited by Sullivan’s tweet) and actively participating in social change. They are voicing their opinions and joining movements they care about. One could even hope that some day soon, the stereotypical apathetic American teenager/20-something could be a thing of the past.

But the Twitter debacle in Kansas also points out one inescapable truth we often forget: the Internet is not private. Sullivan may have thought she was venting her frustrations with the governor to only her few followers on Twitter, but in reality, it was on display for the whole World Wide Web to see.

This truth can make us shy away from displaying any political motivations on our social media accounts, but conversely, it can encourage us to use social media to advertise platforms we believe in. Social media has become ingrained in our lives as much as television, or before that, radio, or before that, good ol’ print. It is a new medium that is capable of more than we think, just as a small-town Kansas high schooler proved.

 

 

Taylor Kuether is a junior print journalism major and Editorial Editor at The
Spectator. 

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