Using a classic pyramidal composition, Rockwell focuses attention on the standing speaker whose age, worn and stained jacket, rough hands with dirty fingernails, and plaid shirt set him apart from the neat coats, ties and white shirts of the older men in the audience. Although he is a working man, this figure, his face reminiscent of Lincoln’s, is unafraid to voice his opinion—which we suspect is contrary to that of the others in the room. Standing tall, his mouth open, his shining eyes transfixed, he speaks his mind, untrammeled and unafraid. In Rockwell’s vision he has become not only an active public participant in democracy, but a defender of it. He is the very embodiment of free speech, a living manifestation of that abstract right—an image that transforms principle, paint and, yes, creed, into an indelible image and a brilliant and beloved American icon still capable of inspiring millions world-wide.
I am very thankful that we still have freedom of speech this Thanksgiving. While such a freedom may be (as any other freedom) abused by those who have no comprehension of its cost, there are many in countries such as Iran who may not do as I am doing right now without risking their lives.