Phillip Hoose’s recent Maine Voices column (Sept. 26) reminded me of the difficulty of expressing our constitutionally defined free speech rights when they clash with traditional cultural symbols like the American flag and the Pledge of Allegiance.

I grew up in Iowa in the 1950s and ’60s, and well remember the social tensions brought about by the Vietnam War in my small city in the southeastern part of the state.

Thanks to the bravery of John and Mary Beth Tinker, as outlined in Phillip Hoose’s column, paving the way for a conversation about the war, I was able, only four years later, to write an op-ed in the local paper in opposition to the war, which barely generated a response. By then, many Americans had begun to question the validity of the war, and why we were sending young men to fight and die in southeast Asia.

As much as we all, as Americans, value this great country, it’s good to have reminders now and then of the challenge of actually tolerating free speech. It’s not always easy, and often generates a heated emotional response.

Our Founding Fathers fought for our right to speak our minds. I honor the right of all Americans to do so, even when I disagree with what they are saying.

Tom Rumpf