Last year's "Free to Tweet" campaign could be judged a success by any measure — over 17,000 tweets, including some from celebrities and even the White House, celebrated and commemorated the freedoms offered by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This time around, organizers are hoping to draw even more participants as they announce this year's "Free to Tweet" contest which kicks off on the first day of December and lasts the entire 15 days of the online First Amendment festival.
The contest will be open to students in high school and beyond – and those 14 years of age and older – who can tweet their thoughts on the First Amendment protections offered in the United States. Appending the hash tag #FreeToTweet will enter their submissions into the "Free to Tweet" scholarship contest and make them eligible to win $5,000 in academic scholarships.
The competition will run between the midnight of December 1st and 11:59pm of December 15th.
The initiative is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and organized by 1 for All, an educational and public service campaign that builds understanding of the First Amendment and its five distinct freedoms: speech, press, religion, assembly and petition. Founding partners in the 1 for All campaign include the First Amendment Center, Newseum, American Society of News Editors and the McCormick Foundation.
The contest and the surrounding celebrations will all be leading up to December 15th's Bill of Rights Day, first proclaimed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in November of 1941. Roosevelt called a national holiday to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, but the historic anniversary was put on hold when just days after the proclamation America entered World War II after Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japanese planes.
Students can enter the scholarship competition by tweeting a message of support – using the hashtag #FreeToTweet – for the First Amendment. A panel of educators and First Amendment experts will review the entries and award five $5,000 scholarships. Judging criteria and complete rules can be found at FreeToTweet.org. Updates on the event can be followed on Twitter at @FreeToTweet2012.
The organizers hope that that they can beat last year's record of 17,000 tweets in only one day. Among those expressing support for the First Amendment by tweeting about it in 2011 were Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Wynonna Judd and many others.