Do you remember your first time? Your first time at a protest is something special. Holding handmade signs with passionate messages that let the world know what’s on your mind and what you value is a beautiful, powerful feeling.
No matter your political, religious, or personal beliefs, your right to gather and vocalize your opinions at a protest — or just about anywhere — is possible thanks to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The third week of October is nationally recognized as Free Speech Week, celebrating all things freedom of speech and the press.
Sandy and Jessica Bohrer, two constitutional lawyers who also happen to be father and daughter, recently published their first book focusing on teaching grade school children the value of the First Amendment.
Your Voice Is Your Superpower: A Beginner's Guide to Freedom of Speech (and the First Amendment), released in September, teaches children about their most valuable weapon: their voice.
The children’s book numbers a colorful 34 pages, written in witty rhyme kids that will easily digest yet will still resonate with adults.
A native of New Jersey, Sandy has been living in Miami and fighting for freedom of the press for nearly four decades. One of the nation's top First Amendment attorneys, he also happens to be the only lawyer who has represented Miami New Times ever since our paper’s inception in 1987. (He has also represented the Miami Herald.)
Growing up in the Bohrer household, it wasn’t uncommon for Jessica and her brother to see their father on the television news. Sandy was featured in print so often that Jessica’s paternal grandfather would carry the newspaper clippings in his pocket. But there was rarely any shop talk in the home.
Much like her father, Jessica has dedicated her life to free speech, working as Forbes’ editorial counsel and volunteering with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
“I became a lawyer because I wanted to help people,” says Jessica, admitting there may have been some subconscious influence. “I certainly grew up with those values embedded in my moral compass, of protecting freedoms, and freedom of speech being the first of them.”
The concept behind Your Voice Is Your Superpower evolved through various conversations between Sandy and his daughter. The current political climate ultimately helped to inspire the theme of the book.
“We thought this was a really important time to start teaching young children about how important it is to use your voice and how important it is to protect the freedom to speak, to protest, to be able to express yourself without fear of harm,” Jessica explains.
“In this environment where the president of the United States is trying to destroy freedom of speech and freedom of the press, [we thought] maybe it’s time to start building it back up,” Sandy adds, noting the importance of teaching young children about the values associated with the First Amendment.
“Children aren’t born hating anyone; they have to be taught to hate. And they can be taught to respect other people, too,” Sandy says.
Jessica echoes her father’s sentiments. “The attacks on journalists have increased exponentially, and I think what that tells us is that the value of free speech, the value of the free press, is under threat right now. The best way you can counteract those trends is to start with young people," she says. "We want to teach them to be accepting, and to take this value very seriously and stand firmly to defend it.”
Before speaking with New Times on Wednesday afternoon, Jessica participated in a virtual book reading with a second-grade class.
The students, she says, excitedly recounted stories of accompanying their parents to protests.
“These kids are experiencing all of these things in the world, and so it’s great to be able to give them a tool to understand what’s happening and understand how they can be a part of their community and part of democracy,” Jessica says.
Your Voice Is Your Superpower: A Beginner's Guide to Freedom of Speech (and the First Amendment), by Jessica and Sandy Bohrer. City Point Press. 2020. 34 pages. Paperback $6.99, board book $13.99.
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