When someone says “liberty” what do you see? Is it the majestic Statue of Liberty standing tall over Manhattan, welcoming “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”?

Do you see slaves rising up and ripping chains from their wrists?

“Liberty” means freedom — particularly the freedom to express yourself and make your own choices, outside of state control. It is a core value of Britain and many other countries.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that everyone is entitled to the freedom of opinion, religion and movement. However, many countries do not respect these rights. Last year, 68 countries became less free, according to an annual report by Freedom House. Hungary and Serbia both went from “Free” to “Partly free” after attacks on democracy and interference in elections.

The United States, while still rated “Free”, has declined over the last eight years and the report warns: “The current president’s ongoing attacks on the rule of law, fact-based journalism, and other principles and norms of democracy threaten further decline.”

Why do you think liberty is important? Is it threatened in your own country? And what is the best way to protect it?

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This year marked 25 years since Nelson Mandela was elected South Africa’s first black president, marking the end of apartheid. Find out more about how he is remembered in this short video. Discuss the meaning of one of his most famous quotes: “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”


  1. Write a definition for each of the following types of liberty: individual liberty, civil liberty, political liberty.
  2. In Western countries, freedom of speech is often hotly discussed. Do we have a right to say anything we want, without repercussions? What if our words are hateful, or encourage violence? Should there ever be exceptions to free speech? Discuss with the rest of your class.
  3. Make a fact file on an inspirational figure who has fought for freedom e.g. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Emmeline Pankhurst, Malala Yousafzai.