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Photos by Jim Kendrick

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Below: Creekside Middle School student Michaela Diamond and Monument Hill Sertoma’s Benny Nasser at the Feb. 20 Board of Trustees meeting. Diamond, one of nine winners of the Sertoma Freedom Week "What America Means to Me" contest, read her essay, "A Life Worthy of Freedom," to the trustees. Nasser noted that Sertoma has sponsored the essay contests since 1974. Mayor Byron Glenn declared the week of Feb. 19 to Feb. 25 Sertoma’s Freedom Week. 

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Below: Renae Wall reads her winning Freedom essay to the Palmer Lake Town Council, Feb. 8. See the photo caption on page 12 for more information on the Freedom essay program.

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The 2006 Essays

What Freedom Means to me
By Kelly Alexander

I was recently asked, “What does freedom mean to you?” I guess I had never thought about it before. What did freedom mean to me? I know my rights, but just knowing them doesn’t mean I fully grasp the concept of what freedom is. I exercise my freedoms every day, but do I understand the cost that was paid for me to have those rights? As I thoughtabout it, the meaning of freedom began to unfold before my eyes.

I remembered seeing an African children’s choir. They told of their home in Uganda where the natives are starving to death, and disease runs rampant among the people. The children of the choir, like so many in Uganda, are orphans. The people of Uganda have been torn from their families by soldiers who kill without remorse. The right to vote seems impossible to them. They do not have a lot of the freedoms that we take for granted each day. They cannot go to school and they cannot speak out against the crimes they are forced to witness. After hearing their stories, I began to view my freedom differently.

Over two hundred years ago our founding fathers sought a better life. They wanted the power of choice. In their home country of Britain, they could not choose their leaders, their religion, or how they were treated. They escaped the persecution and fled to America. A war was fought between the early colonies of America and Great Britain. During the war, Americans were oppressed in much the same way as the Ugandan people are today. However, we won our independence and as a result, I now have the opportunity to live in a free nation.

So, what does freedom mean to me? It means that I am the future. I am truly blessed to live in a country where my freedoms allow me to make a change in our world. I can’t see where I am going unless I look at where I have been. I am free because many brave souls stood up for what they believed was right. Now it is my turn to stand and make a difference in the world.

“There are those I know who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the
American dream.” -Archibald Macleish.

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A Life Worthy of Freedom
By Michaela Diamond

The line is only a few people long, yet the woman stands in it. She can barely speak English, but she is still here to vote. Why? "Because I can," she smiles.

The missionary stood in church service that day. Tears of joy streamed down his face as he sang along with the band. After the service, he explains. "In China, we have to worship with whispers. Here, you throw the windows open!."

America is a free land, but do we really know what it means to be free?

People around the world suffer from persecution, while we in America say and do almost anything we want and others don't even blink. We tend to take our freedom for granted. My grandfather says that to him, freedom means worshiping freely, choosing the spouse you want, and criticizing the government. This is how most Americans think about freedom; to do and say whatever you please. These freedoms are important to me. I am so happy that I can worship Jesus and I won't go to jail because of it. Whenever I laugh at a political joke, I am relieved that I don't have to worry about to whom the joke is aimed. Especially around the holidays, I realize there is a long list of things for which I am thankful.

To me, though, freedom goes even deeper. When you look at the Bill of Rights, you see ten freedoms belonging to all U.S. citizens. Yet not all Americans are free. John Milton says it well when he states, "None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but liberty," Liberty is getting to do whatever you want, but freedom is how you live your life. Freedom is being able to do anything, but choosing to respect others. Americans don't wear visible bonds, but sometimes we are chained to our selfish desires. I am free, but if I live life enslaved by selfishness, with no concern for others. I am free for nothing. When we as Americans squander our freedom by living for ourselves, we show the rest of the world that our freedom is meaningless to us.

When I take the time to consider what freedom means to me, I reflect on how I treat others. I hope that I live a life worthy of freedom.

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What Freedom Means to Me
By Adam Kaelin

Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed - else like a flower cut from its 1ife-giVing roots, it will wither and die. - Dwight D. Eisenhower

What is Freedom? Is it an idea, or is it something greater, something more powerful than any other force known to mankind? Could it be something that we mere mortals cannot explain, something sent from God to live inside us? It’s all this and so much more. Freedom iS a force that compels us to fight for our beliefs, but more importantly, freedom is hope for the world.

Undeniably, freedom lets Americans experience things many in other countries only dream of. In my case, it lets me worship God and lets me make the decisions that seem fit for my life, and for that I am grateful. I am truly blessed to live in a country where I can live for a greater purpose, instead of the government controlling whether or not I can speak of what I believe. It’s impossible to express how magnificent this state of mind is, unless you know how much other countries are oppressed.

On the other hand, such freedom comes at a hefty price. Countless American lives have been spent protecting our freedom and guaranteeing us our rights. We must be grateful for the price that was paid and appreciate what we have; possibly the greatest gift that could be given to anyone. It also gives us the power to live our dreams.

However, with great power comes great responsibility. The responsibilities to fight oppression and to fight for those who cannot defend themselves fall upon our shoulders. It’s hard to imagine life without freedom for men and women of the United States, but the reality for most people makes it hard to imagine life with Freedom. A typical day in my life consists of getting up at six o’clock, going to school, coming home, and usually an activity after school with my friends. In many other countries, kids are forced to work all day so they can stay off the streets. Americans are presented with so much opportunity, but it is not appreciated until it is taken away.

What is Freedom to me? Freedom is a hope, a dream, a chance. Freedom is a cause worth fighting for; it is justice, it is glory, and it is the world’s saving grace.

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What Freedom Means To Me
By Kelsey Kennedy

When I was asked the question “What does freedom mean to you?” I actually had to think and ponder over it for a long time before I felt I truly knew what freedom means to me. There’s an official Webster’s definition for it, but I believe this powerful word is something deeper then just official words put on paper. It can’t be expressed, only felt. One can’t be told what it is, you just sense it and know it’s something you have or don’t have. Everyone’s opinion on freedom is completely different, so there isn’t a definition for it. That’s because freedom is more of a feeling, an unspoken sense. an emotion, and/or an atmosphere. It’s the divine feeling you get sitting on a rock in a serene aspen forest, when you’re rushing down a slippery delightful hill, or when you’re at a Fourth of July barbeque with your family, sitting and watching the vibrant colored fireworks. That’s when I think of the words, I am free. Everyone experiences it in a different way, but I usually feel most free when I know I have the power to choose, I feel like I can protect it, and I’m not helpless.

Choice and freedom I think go..hand-in-hand. When I choose in the morning to wear my brown shirt or my pink shirt, I experience a bit of freedom even if I don’t always realize it. Or when I choose what courses to take in middle and high school, I experience bit of freedom. There is another important factor of freedom though: risks. Even though people say that freedom is something that can’t be taken away from you, in reality it can. There are people, some of my friends, and members of my family in the military protecting our freedom and there’s the possibility we could lose this gift forever. If you are “in chains” you have nothing to lose. There are no risks, and you’re sure of your future, but you can’t do anything about it. When you’re free, you run the risk of losing your freedom and you aren’t sure what’s going to happen. The best part of freedom, the one thing I fell in love with, is the fact that you’re not helpless. You can always do something and you can fight so you don’t sink to that level of helplessness. No matter what, you will always have a choice.

To some people being free means no rules, doing what you want when you want or maybe even just feeling safe. To me, freedom is something a little bit greater. It’s having the power to choose, the honor of being able to protect it, and not feeling helpless like you can’t do anything. Freedom is a better gift than anyone could ever give me.

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What Freedom Means To Me
By Elisha LoBosco

I can only imagine what a life without freedom would be like. You and I have innumerable freedoms that we take for granted every day. It is only when those rights are denied that you realize how much they’re worth. If freedom is another word for choice, then having no freedom also means having no choices. Food, water, clothes, and shelter are the basic needs of humanity, but there is another need. Freedom is the sustenance for your soul. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “A piece of freedom is hot enough for us as human beings. A piece of liberty no longer suffices. Freedom is like life. Freedom is one thing. You have it all, or you are not free.”

Is freedom a thing, an idea, or an emotion? For me, freedom is a mixture of all three. To me freedom has a taste, a sound, and an image. Freedom is the taste of hot dogs, chips, and soda at a ball game. It’s the taste of turkey and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. Freedom is the sound of fireworks painting their vibrant colors across the night sky on the Fourth of July. Freedom is the sound of many voices uniting as one as they sing “The Star Spangled Banner". It is our flag rippling in The wind, its red, white, and blue colors the very voice of freedom. To me, freedom is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, dedicated to all who have paid the price of freedom. Freedom is the pride and the sorrow you feel as you watch soldiers go off to war. Freedom is everything.

Sadly though, freedom does knot come without sacrifice. More than 600,000 men and women have paid the price of liberty — with their lives. Countless more were wounded or severely traumatized. Yet without their sacrifices, America would not be the same. Many soldiers suffered immensely at the hand of the enemy. Some of them survived, others were not so fortunate. But war does not only affect the soldiers, the hurt runs much deeper than that. Family and friends alike are all scarred by the loss of a loved one. And for some, those Scars will never heal.

If we have learned one thing from the history of our nation, it is that there are a few things worth dying for. In my opinion, freedom is one of them.

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Pledge Time
By Aaron Marten

What was once a calm meadow in Massachusetts is suddenly transformed into a morbid shadow of what it was the day before. The blue sky begins to look grim gray as it clouds up. The calm summer breeze is penetrated by shouts, screams, and bullets. The trampled grass becomes slippery from the mixture of blood, sweat, and tears that have been spilled. The meadow becomes impassable due to the macabre obstacle course created from fallen Patriots and Redcoats. A tattered soldier pulls himself and his gun off the ground, only to fall back down, pierced by a bullet. So tell me, do you think of this when you say the Pledge of Allegiance each morning?

Now I’m not saying that I am the most dedicated kid in the class when the principal comes over the intercam and says ‘pledge times’ To me, those thirty one words we repeat when we’re still half asleep each morning mean something more than a half a minute staring at the flag. They mean freedom. ‘Freedom’ is not a simple word such as ‘pizza.’ It has depth. It has meaning. It has history. Freedom is a privilege earned for us by men and women who risked their very lives to defend it.

When I thought about what ‘freedom’ meant, I really didn’t know. I had always believed it would be like those educational movies, where some kid would be working on his American History project and all of a sudden George Washington would pop out of nowhere and tell him what patriot life was like. I realized then that George Washington was not going to pop out of my text book. I had to search for the meaning of ‘freedom’ by myself. I came to the conclusion that freedom is like air. It is everywhere and part of most everything. It is waiting for you, but it is your choice whether to breathe it in or not. I realized that there are kids in other countries where there is no air. I realized that little kids in such countries would probably die to speak the thirty-one words we say half heartedly every day, and to be a part of the luxuries we take for granted.

Each morning you wake up with the right to choose freely. I think each morning we should acknowledge that we are luckier than most kids in most countries; that we can keep living With the power to "make it a great day, or not - the choice is ours." —Dr. Mascerelli

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Freedom
By Kolby Pedne

Freedom is a privilege that has not been given to us on a silver platter. Our freedom was won on the battle field with bloodshed, and we have fought to protect it and maintain it throughout our history. To me freedom represents choice, popular sovereignty, and opportunity.

Freedom is choice. Choice is the ability to make decisions on our own. Without choice the people of America wouldn’t have the chance to decide where to live, what to wear or say, and what to believe. These are all decisions that we Americans often take for granted, but are free to make. For example, in some third world countries people don’t have the right to say what they want without fear of being harmed. Also, with choice comes responsibility. Responsibility is to know that, with every one of your decisions, there is a consequence, good or bad. Responsibility is the boundary that stops people from obstructing one another’s freedom.

Popular sovereignty is “the doctrine that sovereign power is vested in the people and that those chosen to govern must exercise it in conformity with the general will." Without popular sovereignty our government would not he a democracy. Popular sovereignty gives people the right to vote and be represented in their government. In some third world countries there is no popular sovereignty. Instead there are dictatorships or governments that don't conform to the general will. In these places people's rights are not always guaranteed.

Opportunity is defined in the dictionary as "A good position. chance, or prospect. as for advancement or success." In America, we are given the opportunity to make our own way. In America if you are poor you can advance with hard work, education. and a strong will. For instance, when I lived in Brazil, my school was next to a large “favella" or ghetto. In these favellas, you cannot escape with just hard work and a strong will. This is due mainly to the lack of opportunity to pursue an education in a place where it is even difficult to fulfill the most basic needs.

Even though there has been much blood shed to keep our freedom, it has been worth it for us to enjoy such a life where choice, popular sovereignty, and opportunity allows us to have the freedom to make our destinies the best we possibly can.

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What Freedom Means To Me
By Renae Wall

Freedom is a flower That bends against the wind
All flowers wish to 
But the repressing gale will not allow it

Freedom is a star
Surrounded by darkness
Shining for the universe to see
A river
Flowing forever 
Rushing over rocks 
Wandering in the sea 
Flying with the birds
Its only boundary 
The atmosphere 
A bird soaring high
With nothing to bring it down

Freedom is like
The electrifying feel in the air before a thunderstorm
The fun in hearty laughter
The magic in a melody
The wonder of a sunrise
The thrill of racing across endless fields of green
The sweetness of water after a long thirst 
A long forgotten delight stumbled upon while wandering

To die for such feelings 
To die for such things
Many have 
Many more will
I may someday
But I shall do it willingly
No begging
No tears
Sacrificing my life for the things I love 
The ideas I cling to

Countless others have clung to them
Though many have clung in vain
Many still cling in vain
They look to us
And see all that they have hoped for
All the dreams they dream
But for many 
It's like reading a fairy tale
Intangible
Inaccessible
We might as well not be here for all the good we do them

You never know how much you love something
Until it's gone
But once it is gone
You can't get it back
What good is your love
When there is nothing to love?

Why do we complain
What's the use When you look at other countries
China 
Afghanistan
Iraq
There really isn't anything to complain about 
We are blessed

You wouldn't say that I'm a lucky person
Nothing ever seems to work right for me
But stop comparing me to Bill Gates
Compare me to an orphan in Africa
Now am I lucky?
Definitely
And so are you
Even your worst day
Is better than their best

We might not be able to say that
If all those brave men
Our founding fathers
Hadn't decided that they'd had enough
And told the King that they were free

If they hadn't won
The war for liberty
Cruel and unusual deaths would have awaited them
But win they did
Thus securing our freedom
That strange, wonderful, indescribable word
That is not free
It must be bought with blood
Tears
Strife
And pain
But many forget it
And abuse it

If our founding fathers could see
How people ignore the gift they challenged death to give us 
What would they say 
What would they do
Be grateful For the gift that has required the ultimate sacrifice
And will again
And hail those who have paid it
And those who still stand in the breach
For they have given you liberty

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America, Land of the Free
By Bethany Wallace

The plane finally lands on American land, and I look into my nine-month-old sister’s eyes, and I now know that she has the greatest gift of all, freedom. She is one of the mere two percent of blessed orphaned little girls who are adopted from the communist country of China every year. We as Americans are stuck inside our own little lives day in and day out, and never once do we decide to step outside of our comfort zones to see what is going on worldwide. My little family had a tug on our hearts to do something unimaginable, and to many, out of tradition. But my family has something other families don’t, diversity. And though we all come from different cultures and races, we have one thing in common, something we far too often take for granted, freedom.

“Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty,” 2 Corinthians 3:17, The Bible. Could this quote be any more pertinent to the morals of the United States? A number of us don’t realize this, but each and every one of us live under the presence of our Creator every day. Worldwide there are people absent to the feeling of security, something we possess, because we are “One Nation under God.” China is one of those countries who is sadly missing out on this wonderful gift. As I strolled down the smoggy streets of Shanghai, I saw so many emotions in those children’s eyes. Looks of longing, longing for the sense of true belonging, longing to be sincerely loved. This pierced my heart, because my family would just go home and go on with our lives, but these poor children would remain in heartbreak, trapped in a country with no freedom.

Freedom. Such a profound word that most of us don’t know the meaning of. We as Americans are so used to it that we don’t know that most of the world doesn’t have it. They have no voice. No wings. And no way out. With the power of the Lord, they may someday be released from their shackles and experience the joy of freedom. We can walk out the door in the morning without the fear of being attacked, and speak out in public without being tormented. And now at age seven, blinded by the blessing of youthful imagination, my sister still has, and will forever have, freedom.

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