Planting a Liberty Tree

treeWe planted a “liberty tree” on campus today.

The tree symbolically connects Elon to the origins of the American Revolution and to the present-day commitment to the concept of individual liberty.

The first “liberty tree” was a famous elm that stood near Boston Common in the days before the American Revolution. Men calling themselves the Sons of Liberty gathered under the large elm to plot the growing resistance to the rule of England over the American colonies. In the years leading up to the war, the British made the tree an object of ridicule and, in an act of spite in 1775, cut down the tree and used it for firewood.

In battles during the American Revolution, flags bearing a representation of the “liberty tree” were a common sight. In the years that followed, almost every American town designated a “liberty tree” as a living symbol of popular support for individual liberty.

As part of “Celebrate the First Amendment” day sponsored by the School of Communications, the university let us plant a “liberty tree” on the west side of Moseley Student Center. When we arrived at the site at 4 p.m., the elm was in place with six golden shovels ready for moving the dirt. Students and faculty (that’s me in the light suit) took turns shoveling soil around the elm’s base.

The special day at Elon was made possible by a Liberty Tree Initiative grant. The day included a panel that featured the director of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University and First Amendment boards set up across campus to encourage students to exercise free speech.

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