Interrupting public speech is not the proper way to advocate change

Courtesy of MCT

Courtesy of MCT

Policymakers are given the daunting task of representing a numerous amount of constituents. It comes to no surprise that some citizens act up in defiance of the perceptions and actions established by these figures who have been instilled with such great power.

The freedom of speech, as part of the First Amendment, is one of our nation’s more recognizable statutes. It guarantees the right that people will “not be deprived or abridged of” our “freedom to speak” by government.

Last month, President Barack Obama’s speech was interrupted by UC Berkeley graduate Ju Hong in San Francisco’s Betty Ong Center.

Hong, an undocumented immigrant from South Korea, has recently made very public concerns to the president, bringing up the 11.5 million families that have been deported under the Obama administration.

“I need your help,” Hong exclaimed from the seats. “Please use your executive order. You have the power to stop deportation.”

In respect of the young man’s obvious passion, President Obama stopped Secret Service from removing the Harvard research assistant.

In response, Obama exposed his desire to pass laws without the approval of Congress, but also asserted, “the easy way out is to yell and pretend I can do something” without addressing the existing deportation laws.

While I understand freedom of speech is a right all individuals should understand, practice and respect, I strongly believe in the practice of common courtesy.

Hong’s outburst can definitely be interpreted as a cry for help, but that doesn’t disregard his rude and aggressive behavior.

There are potentially large repercussions when public officials and policy makers are excessively heckled.

Solid communication between officials and the people they represent is of the utmost importance. When individuals with access to power and information present themselves to the public, it opens up the opportunity for the public to obtain material they otherwise may not have access to.

Chances are these figureheads will start denying to meet with the public if they expect to see a hostile.

The White House invited 24-year-old Hong to be a part of the “human wallpaper” seated behind the president during his speech.

An individual receiving the honor of hearing the president speak should act in a more respectful and much less aggressive manner, without invoking his or her personal agenda.

Hong, however, did not hesitate to cut off the procession of the speech and begin a conversation with the president mid-sentence.

This is not to say that Hong, and other opponents of existing government policy, do not present legitimate arguments.

In his off-putting approach to communicate with the president, Hong was able to serve as the voice of other undocumented immigrants who, like him, may have been “living in fear of deportation.”

Hong’s confrontational energy comes from the fact that Obama has deported more people than any other president in United States history. In a letter to the president following the San Francisco event, Hong addressed the serious concerns he had in relation to his community.

Hong also took his case to social media and tweeted, “Mr. President, I did not heckle you. I was speaking the truth to you.”

There is great power embedded in a person’s right to speak their mind. That being said, certain speech can overstep boundaries.

Heckling is not a responsible form of practicing the right to freedom of speech.

A citizen can best utilize this right when expressing and exchanging ideas on a two-way, even playing field. When an individual is only willing to voice their own dissent, there is no room for growth or understanding.

About Valerie Schrepferman