Related: Civil & Human Rights, Politics, Social Issues, Social Justice Issues

Voices of Trinity: Constitution Day II


Dr. Carlota Ocampo, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, adds her voice to the dialogue:

“I am so impressed by the elegance with which our students (and faculty) have responded to the questions you pose about the tension between liberty and security.  I couldn’t agree more with their sentiments.  I can easily answer the first three questions:  1) Should the government restrain our rights in order to promote security?  No.  2) Are we in danger of losing guaranteed rights?  Yes.  And 3) What rights might I be willing to sacrifice?  None.

“I think the above panel of experts (here I refer to my fellow responders) has effectively addressed these questions, so I will focus on which right I hold most dear and would not sacrifice under any circumstance:  the first amendment.  The first amendment is first for a reason, and I know it is not an original observation that freedom of speech serves as the cornerstone of a healthy democracy.  I don’t think all Americans are aware that this right, though we call it a natural right, is not universally recognized by world governments and political systems.  You make a great point (which I infer from your fourth question) that what we become complacent about, what we take for granted, we are in danger of losing.  To preserve this right, we should exercise it at every opportunity through our civic participation.  We should freely speak (of course, with respect and civility) in the public forum; we should freely practice our religion or belief system; we should publish our ideas and support a free press; we should freely come together to exercise our rights and we should petition the government when it is not representing our best interests.

“A more emotional response to your question follows.  When I think of what it means to be an American (speaking as a daughter of parents who immigrated here) I immediately think: freedom.  Freedom is what America is all about.  My parents came from a country where rights were restricted with little effect on the problem of internal terrorism.  I am not even convinced that the “tension” between liberty and security is real.  Is it possible this tension is promoted to us as a means of social control?

“On a final note, I find it surprising that those who go on and on about the dangers of “big government” are often those who profess willingness to sacrifice rights for security.  The Bill of Rights and other amendments are in place precisely to limit the intrusion of government into our lives.  Isn’t this a bit of an inconsistency?”

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: