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Teal: What freedom means to a 13 year old
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Below are excerpts from essays written by eighth graders from a school district in the midlands on the topic of “What Freedom Means to Me.”  As you read these excerpts, check to see how these students feel about their country.  Also check to see if parents and teachers have taught them many concepts on citizenship, civics and American democracy.

The eighth grade is one slot in the curriculum where S. C. History and citizenship is taught.   Kershaw County thirteen year olds likely feel about the same as these do about their country.

Excerpt One-----Freedom to me is saying the pledge of allegiance to our flag every day.  When I say the pledge it is not just words.  It is a “thank you and I love you so much” to a grandfather I never knew.  

It is being able to thank every man and woman who has fought for our/my freedom that we take for granted every day.  

It is being able to have an education and to be able to speak from my heart and not be afraid to.  But sadly for others it is just freedoms we are given by our government.

When some people think of freedom their first thought may be freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, petition and to bear arms.  

Some may think of owning private property, equal justice, travel freely, right to choose a career, marry who you want and to be able to join a union or political party.  Little do some people realize how little some people have.  Some people in other countries don’t have the right to speak their minds and to follow a religion they believe in, for example, China and the middle East.

Excerpt Two--- Freedom to me is running free like the wind, letting it give you chill bumps, but at the same time, a rush of pure excitement through your blood…..Freedom is not just a word you can take lightly, bur you take it and you love it.  Freedom is a part of all of us whether we know it or not.  It is like a spirit that guides us through hard and destructive times.  Freedom is a soft touch but also a loud lion roaring through the jungle.  You can’t put a title on freedom.  Freedom puts a title on itself.  Freedom puts joy in my heart knowing that I can express myself, knowing that I can feel, and not have someone feel for me.  Freedom is a story waiting to be told.

Excerpt Three---Freedom is being able to worship God my true and only King.

Excerpt Four----Freedom means to ride the school bus every morning without me having to deal with racism…..my great great grandmother had to deal with a lot of racism….I am a proud American.  I am proud to say I live in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Excerpt Five----To find the meaning of freedom I searched in books, online, the news, and other sources.  Then I thought about those who have no freedom and what this means.  To find the meaning of freedom, I had to look into the deepest depths of imprisonment, segregation, restraint, hopelessness.  There I found what my freedoms are, the opposite  from these people.

Excerpt Six---Freedom is very important to me because some of my family were brave enough to go over to Afghanistan and fight for our country and our freedom.  I am a proud American for I know being free is not something that is handed to me, but it comes at a very high price.  What makes me a proud American is to pray when I want without being abused for my beliefs or when I grow up to have any husband or as many children as we want.  Freedom has really affected my life because I have been able to travel wherever I wanted without being questioned by the government.

Excerpt Seven----Freedom makes me feel like I just received the warmest and purest hug wrapped in someone’s arms.  Freedom makes me laugh when I think of Uncle Sam doing a ballet to rock music.  I am very happy I have freedom.  I wouldn’t wish having no freedom on my worst  enemy.

Excerpt Eight---Freedom allows us to do what we want  as long as it does  not harm the government and others.  Freedom allows us to be judged as an individual of our race and insures that every race is equal and there is no master race.  So in the end freedom is not a physical thing but instead, a belief that all are equal. That’s what freedom is to me.

Excerpt Nine---Gender does not determine freedom.  Just because same-sex marriage is wrong in your belief system does not mean everyone else has to believe the same thing as you.

Excerpt 10---I would like to thank the men and women who serve and have served my country.   This includes my brothers, aunts, uncles, a cousin and family friends.  I can thank them every day by saying the pledge of allegiance and singing the Star Spangled Banner. Freedom allows me to love everyone.

Excerpt 11---To me, freedom is an honor and a privilege, and I will never forget what it took to earn it.

Excerpt 12---I can get a job that I want, drive a car, bus, boat or truck.  In countries like Iraq women do not have equal rights to men.  I am a thirteen year old girl with big plans for the future.  If I did not have my American freedoms, I could not become a doctor.

Excerpt 13---I am glad that we have freedom here in America to do what we wish in our lives, to find what career we want and not have someone else choose it for us.

Summary

Your columnist is in charge of conducting a Sertoma Club contest in which middle school students write an essay on the topic of “What freedom means to me.”  

The school district and the Sertoma Club know it is a very useful exercise for young people to stop, think and then to put into words what this country means to them.  

What their essays reveal should be instructive to parents, teachers and the school district.

After reading these excerpts, personally, this columnist feels good about our youth and the future.