I am familiar with the more playful side of Norman Rockwell–at my house we have a print of Puppy Love, an adorable scene of a young girl and boy sitting on a bench at sunset. So for me, although I knew he had done political pieces, this was really interesting to see and evaluate. I think one of the most important aspects of Freedom of Speech is not just that the man who is standing seems both free to speak and respected for his opinion, but that he and the people listening appear to be in different social classes.
He is dressed in work clothes and has tanned skin, while almost everyone else visible in the painting is wearing a suit or other formal/business wear. Regardless of the difference in their social positions, and the fact that most of those listening probably do not agree with him (judging by the unconvinced looks on their faces and the general tendency of political and especially economic arguments to divide the classes) they still listen and he is still afforded the basic right of speaking about his beliefs and standpoints.
Although it is definitely an accurate portrayal of how freedom of speech is supposed to work, I question if this situation would have actually worked out so ideally in real life at the time of the painting’s debut. At the least, I don’t think it is accurate to today–even looking beyond the fact that some marginalized groups don’t always get listened to or paid attention to in the United States, there is a popular trend of interpreting “freedom of speech, the right that lets me express my beliefs in exchange for acknowledging others’ right to do the same” as “freedom of speech, the right that lets me express my beliefs, a right which anyone who disagrees with my beliefs is infringing upon.”