Speakers Idol 2018 – My Experience

“Freedom of speech is not freedom to propagate hatred”

-Simon Wiesenthal

A few months ago I came across this quote in a poster created by the ‘Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies‘, that was advertising an exciting speech competition called ‘Speakers Idol’. This contest gives Ontario youth the opportunity to enhance their writing skills and public speaking abilities, while exploring real world issues that matter to young people. After doing more research, I learned that Simon Wiesenthal was an inspirational Holocaust survivor, Nazi hunter, and writer. This organization is committed to honouring his legacy through Holocaust education, and Speakers Idol is a platform for youth to learn more about his story and give their perspective on one of his quotes.

Image result for friends of simon wiesenthal centre

I found his assertion to be very intriguing, so I put my pen to paper and developed a three-minute speech that I sent in along with hundreds of other applicants across Ontario. I was very excited to have made it past the semi-finalist round and into the finalist round that took place on March 27th at the Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts. It was a truly unforgettable experience to stand alongside 9 passionate and eloquent young people who are all raising their voices.

speakers idol

Below you can find a written transcript of my speech, as well as a video that was filmed.

Our world’s history is fraught with a long line of malicious and corrupt rulers who have caused tremendous pain, violence, and suffering for millions. Each of these heinous leaders share the corrupt ideology that the freedom to spread hatred is an extension of freedom of speech. Many years ago, Simon Wiesenthal, an influential Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter affirmed that “Freedom of speech is not freedom to propagate hatred.” This statement was true during the Holocaust in World War II, and it is still relevant in 2018. However, I believe that the deep-rooted meaning of his assertion is that uncontrolled hate speech leads to the rise of evil power.

Freedom of speech is a fundamental component of a just and democratic society. However, what many people fail to recognize is that Canada was not created simply on the basis of freedom – our country was born out of a dream for justice and equality for all. Freedom of speech can only function within an equitable society if reasonable limits are placed on the extent to which individuals can express their opinions about others.

During the early 1900s, as Adolf Hitler began expressing his abhorrence for the Jewish population, others began listening to his words and felt justified in expressing their own latent hateful beliefs. During World War II, the Nazis used their power to deny the basic humanity of an entire religious group. The devastation caused by Hitler’s reign is a powerful example of the snowball effect that one person can create by abusing their freedom of speech.

More than seventy years after World War II ended, this snowball effect can be observed once again in the global political theater. During the 2016 US election, Donald Trump capitalized on the nation’s fears and exposed the suppressed attitudes of a subsection of the American people, empowering his followers to begin turning their thoughts into action. The impact of the Donald Trump era has demonstrated the importance of drawing the line between constructive conversation and blatant discrimination.

Simon Wiesenthal emphasised that hate speech serves no purpose to our society except to further silence those already stripped of their voices and humanity. As Canadians, it is essential that we work to preserve and protect our shared values and beliefs by calling out hate speech when we hear it, putting pressure on our government to continue enacting change to protect marginalized groups, and giving our support to victims of hate speech. It is only when clear lines are drawn between free speech and hate speech that discrimination will cease, and inclusivity will prevail.

If you are interested in learning more about the incredible work that this organization is implementing, check out their website at: https://www.friendsofsimonwiesenthalcenter.com/

I am honoured to have had this opportunity to share my passion, and I am very grateful to the organizers and judges who helped to ensure that Speakers Idol 2018 was such a success!

Thanks for joining me on my journey to change the world!

-Diviya

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