A young man from North Carolina; a patriot or a traitor? Edward Snowden began slipping into kitchen conversations all over the world in 2013 when he made headlines being touted as both a national hero and a criminal. Growth in technology created the crimes, but did it create a criminal? Someone very wise once pointed out that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Snowden stood up to these questions by exposing government information which was collected, and some would say stolen, from unknowing private citizens. By revealing the abuse of power by the government, Snowden returned some of it back to us, asking us to make up our own minds about who should have so much control.
It takes a strong man to stand up to his government and peers to say “this is not right”, but it takes an even stronger woman to do the same. Jesselyn Radack was born and brought up in the American center of politics and lawmaking, Washington D.C. She is best known for her work as the ethical advisor to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, as well as her defense of “whistleblowers” Edward Snowden and Thomas Drake. In the early wake of the events of 9/11, Radack spoke out on behalf of John Walker Lindh, an American citizen captured, tortured, and interrogated by the U.S. government in violation of his constitutional rights. Radack has been one to stand up beside some of the most influential American dissidents to support and defend their rights, despite how radical they may be.
An early radical, Ellsberg was one of the first responders to government conspiracy and deception in America. By revealing what would come to be known as “the Pentagon Papers” he proved the government was obscuring information about the Vietnam War and lying to the American people about the outcome of the war. He planted significant strongholds for the protection of the First Amendment, specifically for the freedom of the press. Ellsberg stood for the representation of the Constitution, rather than the men in government claiming even the president, every president, is a liar.
"All I was doing was trying to get home from work." Such a seemingly simple task would spark a civil rights movement that would change America forever. During an age of segregation, Rosa Parks started a revolution by simply refusing to move to the back of the bus. Working with the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr., her ideals sculpted the advancement of women and people of color as we know it today. She helped us understand that laws and policies are fluid, and it’s up to those who would oppose them to guide our history through them.
A prominent forefather, John Adams envisioned the United States as a shelter for independence and freedom of thought, liberty, and speech. During the separation of the United States from the control of Britain, John Adams helped shape and advise the formation of an ideal government. His ideals were in favor that many people would actively engage and question their leadership freely, and those responsible would make careful decisions in the best interest of the citizen majority. Although those ideas were radical in his time, they paved the Declaration of Independence and many of the principals the United States still claims to foster to this day.
A victim of persecution and accusation himself, Arthur Miller is perhaps best known for The Crucible, speculated to be his metaphor for the United States’ witch hunt for communists in the early twentieth century. One of the best and most influential playwrights in history, Miller faced denunciation and accusations of being a communist and of spreading false messages. Protected only by his freedom of speech, Miller never wavered or backed down and continued, in the face of adversity, to write and produce some of the most definitive works in history. His voice was small, but his messages were huge, as he communicated his beliefs through his art.
A rebel before her time, with a powerful cause, Goldman made a scene for women and anarchists in an age of convention and order. Dissenting even from her own contemporaries in favor of her own principles, she fought to keep the anarchist movement focused on the joy and freedom of individuals rather than rebelling just to do so against the government. Goldman’s extremist and radical views still apply to our current society. Although she died in 1940, her contributions to the anarchists’ agenda made resurgence in the early 1970s and rang as true as ever for the feminists and hippies of the twentieth century.
Pushing the envelope all the way to the edge, Lenny Bruce was the thorn in the side of the conservative patriot of the sixties. Before Vietnam and the hippies who opposed it, he was the voice piping up about anything and everything that nobody wanted to hear about, but everyone wanted to talk about. Under steady persecution and run-ins with the laws he challenged, Lenny Bruce was a torchbearer for the First Amendment, particularly freedom of speech, as a comic labeled obscene by a critical society. Unafraid to tackle any tough subject from racism and politics to sex and drugs, Bruce provided an outlet for the voice of a squeamish but curious generation.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson is best known for his literary works, but it is his ideas and tenacity which have made him an icon in American culture. Facing certain persecution as a prominent abolitionist, he stood up for his own beliefs and supported the ostracized beliefs of his friends and peers. In a time of rigidity and order, Emerson dared to question the foundation of society in religion by founding the transcendental movement. Criticized for his anti-religious teachings, he believed that the truth is to be found within ourselves and our considerations of the world around us, and the rules which are laid before us are not always unswerving.
One of America’s leading living political activists, Noam Chomsky has gained himself a reputation as of one of the most influential minds in the fields of linguistics and philosophy. Throughout his life, he has opposed and criticized the U.S. government’s foreign policy, as well as the mainstream media numerous times with essays, public lectures, and teachings. Becoming a figurehead of anarchy, he created a movement against the “business party”. A self-described anarchist, Chomsky’s teachings focus on standing up for oneself and fostering community rather than becoming a slave to those who attempt to wield power over others.