What’s so great about America? Ask a sixth-grader

Sixth-grade students at St. Anthony Park Elementary School have participated in the Fourth of July Essay Contest since 1978, when Robert Hahnen Sr. of St. Anthony Park launched the program under the auspices of American Legion Post 34. When the post dissolved in the 1990s, a fund was set up through the St. Anthony Park Library Association to carry on the tradition.

This year, sixth-graders at the school were asked, What makes America great? Jamie Cohen of St. Anthony Park wrote the first-place essay. Henry Hanson and Georgia Langer, both of St. Anthony Park, wrote the second- and third-place essays, respectively.

The students are invited to read their essays during the Fourth in the Park program at Langford Park’s bandshell on Thursday, July 4, following the Grand Parade. The parade begins at 11 a.m. and the program—featuring essay winners, local dignitaries and music by the St. Anthony Park Community Band—begins right after the parade. To learn more about why America is great in the eyes of a sixth-grader, read on.

THERE MAY BE MANY REASONS why America is great. I came up with a few reasons that matter most to me. These are freedom, creative expression and the compassion of American people.

The amount of freedom we have is a special part of our nation. We choose our leaders, we choose where we live, whom we love and marry, what we do for a living, that is something we should be proud of. The definition of liberty is having the ability to act according to your own will, as long as it doesn’t affect the ability of someone else.

A second thing that makes America great is our commitment to creative expression, especially in the form of music and movies. I love movies. I love the special effects and the way they can make you sit on the edge of your seat because you don’t know what is going to happen next. Music in America is astonishing. There are so many genres that can suit the tastes of each of us. The creative energy one can put into making music and movies is incredible, and our country feeds and is fed by this energy.

Finally, America’s greatness is shown in the compassion of its people. When awful things happen, Americans always rush to help. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it was devastating. Homes were destroyed and people lost their lives. Many people across the nation helped in some way. People sent money, donated blood, even went to help the city rebuild. When the bombs went off in Boston, many people were hurt severely and lives were lost. Again, the compassion of the American people was revealed.

Some people think America’s best days are in the past. I disagree. If we embrace our freedom, if we experience our creativity, if we act with compassion, we will embrace America.—Jamie Cohen

IT SOMETIMES  SEEMS HARD TO SEE how America is great. After all, you don’t hear about the great things we do on the radio or TV all that much, but if you stop and think, you realized that America is great in more ways than you had imagined. For starters, we live in a democratic country; we are not run by a dictatorship, or have a communist government. We have the ability to say, and do what we want, without being punished.

Another great thing about America is how diverse the population is and how many different ethnic groups there are. You don’t have to be a certain type of person to live in America. You also get to choose what you are going to be, you could be a doctor, lawyer, or astronaut, anything really, and it’s all up to you to decide what it is.

We have free education all through high school, even if it is no longer one of the best. Also we don’t have severe air pollution, we can run outside, sit on our porches, and watch sports. Other parts of the world don’t have this luxury. People in parts of China have to use air filters, and children are prevented by their parents from going outside.

All of these things are great, but I think the greatest thing of all is that our country is a beacon of hope to others in other parts of the world. That they think of living in America as the good life and would rather be here than where they are. Many people try to get here through the Mexican border every day. Lady Liberty sits on our coast for a reason. We are the land of the free for a reason. We call ourselves Americans with pride, and we should, because America is great.—Henry Hanson

AMERICA IS MY HOME, MY HAPPY PLACE, and my life. America is a wonderful place to be. But why? What makes America so spectacular? Some may say the equality or unity. I say that it is that we can disagree with the government and be out of harm’s way while doing so. Places in the world like Saudi Arabia or North Korea can’t speak out against the government or things unmentionable could happen to them. I am honored to be in this country because I know that I can fight for what I believe in, and I will not get bad consequences for doing so.

Americans are allowed to speak freely of their opinions, and fight for the things that matter to us. I am an American and am proud to say so because I know that as our generation gets older and more opinions arise on political issues or any other thing that needs to be debated, I know that we will be able to speak freely among our peers and stand up for what we believe in.

Speaking is my strongest forte, and I do not think about it before I speak freely. It never occurred to me, until a little bit ago that in other places around the world, there is someone who loves to talk just as much as I do, but cannot talk about what they are for or against. That just baffles me. I do not understand it. I am happy that I live in America, because I know that my political views will not hurt me and that I am safe to believe in any cause that I choose to believe in.

Being able to stand up for what you believe in is what makes America a phenomenal place to live, and I know that this is a place where I feel OK to speak out and cherish America because this is a place where I feel safe and happy to say what I believe in.—Georgia Langer

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