For more than 20 years, I’ve been judging the annual Heritage Week Essay Contest for Myrtle Beach sixth graders.
It’s a wonderful project sponsored by the Grand Strand Sertoma Club, with cash prizes for the top three essays out of about 100 submitted.
This year’s subject: “What does the word ‘liberty’ mean to you?’’
It was one of the most difficult of the contests I’ve judged, partly because of the touching personal nature of many of the essays.
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Many of them were written by students whose parents had recently come to this country and it seemed to me they had a greater appreciation of the freedoms that so many of us take for granted. Many of the essays tugged heavily at the heart strings.
I don’t want to get too sappy about it, but I would like to share a few — and remember, these were written by your very bright sixth-grade children.
• “My family is from Honduras. It is a poor country. My mom and dad came here for freedom but it has been tough.
“Why do people not like Hispanic people? What did we do wrong? Think of how you would feel if you had to leave the United States.
“The United States is an amazing country. Nobody would like to leave this beautiful country. Think about how you would feel if you had to leave this beautiful, amazing country.’’
• “My parents lived in Mexico at the age of 18. When they both graduated college they decided to come to America. They came to America for two reasons. One there wasn’t much jobs in Mexico at that time and two because they wanted freedom.
“When they made it to America they were glad, there was lots of jobs, better homes, and especially they had a chance for a better life.’’
• “Many different people come from different countries to visit and look for new opportunities. If the United States didn’t have all the immigrants coming from different countries, then we wouldn’t have all the different unique foods and places we have today.’’
• “`Liberty doesn’t always happen, it’s rare, never guaranteed and could be threatened. If I didn’t have liberty, my whole life would be different, I wouldn’t have the same life.’’
• “Many people don’t get a chance to have liberty in some countries. Some can’t do what they want or have a great life. A lot of people are lucky like me and other people, that came to the USA are lucky to have liberty. People all over the world wish they can have freedom like us, but they are not as lucky. They have to work hard jobs and have a bad life.’’
• “In 1928 my great-grandfather came to America as a 12-year-old boy so that Italian prime minister Mussolini would not control him.
“To me the word liberty means freedom, equality, standing up for what you believe. To other people, liberty means having your own personal opinion on something. Liberty is one of the reasons my great grandfather came to America. Without liberty I would possibly not be writing this essay.’’
That about says it all, don’t you think? Without liberty I wouldn’t be writing this column. Thanks, kids.
Contact Bob Bestler at email@example.com