Thursday, March 22, 2007

Unwrapping Freedom

A submission by a Stockton High School senior was the unanimous first-place selection in the 2007 First-Amendment essay contest sponsored by the Southwest Missouri Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. The following first place essay was written by Katie Shellhorn, senior, Stockton High School. Here essay, entitled "Unwrapping Freedom" is reprinted here:

Every year at Christmas I anticipate opening presents with my family. After opening all of the gifts I usually focus on the main gift and push the less important ones aside. In a sense, I treat Christmas the same way I do freedom. I am thankful for the most important gift, which is freedom, but I find myself overlooking the small freedoms. In eighteen years I have overlooked free media, a freedom with significant importance. I’ve been so used to finding information through the news or Internet, but I never stop and realize that not everyone in the world has that freedom.

The first amendment to the United States Constitution, a gift given to all Americans, states, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...” Free media is the only way citizens are informed and not deceived. In societies such as George Orwell’s 1984, the government used media to control the people which resulted in a loss of individual freedom. Where there is no free media, there are no free people.

Thomas Jefferson, America’s third president, stated the importance of free media over the government. “…And were it left to me to decide whether we should have a
government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

September 11, 2001 was a day in which I realized the importance of the media. As I sat in my seventh grade classroom I watched the twin towers fall. I felt I was experiencing the tragedy with the people of New York. I was able to grieve with the suffering and at the same time I became angry with the terrorists. If I were unable to see the damage done to my country that day I would have had no idea how bad it truly was. Without free media I would have been left in the dark without any knowledge or understanding of what happened that day.

Freedom is a gift I receive everyday of my life. I don’t have to write it down on my wish list each year for Christmas or beg my mom and dad to buy it for me. Each time I turn on the news, listen to the radio or get on the Internet, I unwrap gifts of freedom.

What a great entry. I hope we find out in a month or two that Katie has won at the national level too. I'll keep you posted. Plus, I'll be sharing some of the award winning essays over the next few weeks. These are available for publication by any area newspaper that is interested.


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