“The closer you are to your government, the more impactful it is.”
Reginald Parson discusses the importance of using your First Amendment freedoms to enact change within your community, through your local government.
Reginald Parson is the Senior Legislative Aide and Policy Analyst with the Speaker’s Office in the Maine Legislature.
REGINALD PARSON: I truly think that the closer you are to your government, the more impactful it is.
MAXWELL NOSBISCH: Hello and welcome to this installment of the First Amendment Museum’s One on 1 series. Today, I’m joined by our special guest, Reginald Parson. Reginald, would you like to introduce yourself?
REGINALD PARSON: My name is Reginald Parson. I am currently a Senior Legislative Aid and Policy Analyst in the Speaker’s Office in the Maine Legislature. I’m originally from Chicago, Illinois. I came to Maine in 2016 to go to law school.
MAXWELL NOSBISCH: Why do you think the First Amendment is important?
REGINALD PARSON: You know, I think it’s incredibly important in this day and age, and this time that we’re living in, in our country.
I think we’ve seen in the last year and a half, almost close to two years, the ability for people to express themselves in a way that can be passionate at times and can get heated.
As someone who works in state government, we hear from people all the time and that’s their ability to either come to their capital or reach out to their elected officials to express whatever it is that they like.
MAXWELL NOSBISCH: How did you end up as a Senior Legislative Aide and Policy Analyst?
REGINALD PARSON: Since I’ve been this little, very little, government was something I was always attracted to. And throughout my young adult life, I’d always try to position myself to be put in places where I feel like I can make a change. And I’ve always enjoyed policy.
And I think my background coming from Chicago, I think really kind of gave me an idea of what people go through and living in a big city and seeing people’s struggles and things that they overcome.
I’m thankful to be under the leadership of Speaker Fecteau, trying to do good work for the people of Maine.
MAXWELL NOSBISCH: So how do you think the freedoms found in the First Amendment can help Maine or I guess pretty much any other state tackle some of their many local issues?
REGINALD PARSON: The freedoms in the First Amendment, such as the freedom to petition your government, freedom to reach out to your local state folks or the national folks. The members of the press who have the ability to ask their leaders or elected officials sometimes tough questions.
I think we’ve seen groups or organizations in the community, especially at a local level. You know if they’re really fired up about something, whether they support something or oppose something, they have the ability to organize. And they have the ability to push back on their councilors.
I think the freedoms found in the First Amendment can obviously cause a lot of debate in the community which is good. You know, especially the closer you are to your government the more passionate people can get because people have lived in their communities for a long time and there might be some changes that people like or don’t like, and that can make people a little nervous.
So they should have the ability to reach out to the elected officials or policymakers to say, “Hey what are you doing? What’s going on?” Or I want this thing to happen.
MAXWELL NOSBISCH: How important are state and local politics? Or do you think people spend too much time worrying about national politics? Or is there some room where they’re all
REGINALD PARSON: Yeah, I mean, all of them are equally important and I truly think that the closer you are to your government, the more impactful it is. So, while it’s important to pay attention to national issues, I think it’s incredibly important for folks to pay attention to what the councils are doing. Pay attention to what your legislature’s doing. You know, pay attention to what your governor’s doing.
In my time in the legislature, the bills that we pass, they have an impact and they can have a quick impact on people, especially with the local issues. You know we see in Portland, a mask mandate. And I’m going to Hannaford. I’m going to a restaurant. Boom. You see a sign that says masks are required. That goes to show the council’s ability to impact something that fast is great.
MAXWELL NOSBISCH: How do you use the First Amendment in your everyday life?
REGINALD PARSON: In some cases, I have the ability to write op-eds and letters to the
editor that inject hopefully what I think is a thoughtful perspective into the public discourse. And I’ve certainly written on quite a few things that are impacting me locally and what I hope that I want my elected leaders. Because even though I work for the state of Maine, I’m also a citizen.
So, I hope to have the ability to express myself in a way that’s constructive and be part of a positive public conversation.
MAXWELL NOSBISCH: Well, Reginald, thank you so much for joining us for this interview.
REGINALD PARSON: Thank you. I’m happy to be here and you know, I hope my perspective contributes to some hopefully positive dialogue about the First Amendment. So, thank you.