In 1978, Robert Hahnen Sr., a member of St. Anthony Park American Legion Post No. 34, started a patriotic-essay contest for sixth-graders at St. Anthony Park Elementary School to coincide with the neighborhood’s annual Fourth of July parade and festivities.
The three winners of the annual contest have been invited each year since then to read their essays at the opening ceremonies of the July 4 celebration in Langford Park. In 1984, the American Legion post disbanded and handed the contest sponsorship to the St. Anthony Park Library Association.
Now, 38 years after the contest began, it continues with just a few changes: fifth-graders now write the essays as sixth grade has moved to middle schools in St. Paul Public Schools and the school has added a Memorial Day ceremony where the three essay winners also read their essays.
This year’s topic was “How public libraries make America stronger.” The essays are printed below.
Cathal Mee, first place
Public libraries are very important in our lives. They have a big impact on America. Without them, we would not read as much or we might not even know how to read. Public libraries also provide a safe place for kids when they need help. Here are a few ways that I think public libraries make America stronger.
First, they have books on the past so we can change the future. You can read about Adolf Hitler and the holocaust, about our wars, about segregation. You can learn about slavery and terrorists and all the other bad things that have happened in the past. We can learn from this information and in the future we can do the opposite and make America a better place.
Next, public libraries have books that could inspire people to do great things. Some books just entertain you for a while and others can change your life. You could go into a library with your goal being to read a book and you could come out with your goal being to become president. For example, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho showed [actor] Will Smith that the impossible is possible if you try.
Last but not least, the story times and programs at libraries help mix people of different racial or cultural backgrounds. My mom leads story time at the local library and out of her weekly average of 112 people, about 30 to 40 percent are immigrants or English language learners. The library also has different programs that encourage Chinese, Hmong and other groups of people to come to the library.
In conclusion, I think that public libraries make America stronger in many ways. They have books that can inspire people. They also have programs that help people of different cultures and races come together. That is why I think that public libraries make America stronger.
Pia Banat, second place
Public libraries have made America stronger over the years. Did you ever wonder how many library items are checked out each year? Well, here is the answer: over 2 billion items are checked out at libraries each year.
My first reason why libraries have made America stronger and smarter is by giving a good education to kids by providing necessary books for them that teach people math, reading and spelling for no price at all. Public libraries provide study spots that help children and adults get work done. My final reason public libraries make the U.S. a lot stronger is they provide interesting books to people that aren’t able to afford to just go out and buy books. These are three reasons why public libraries make America stronger.
My first reason why public libraries make America stronger is by giving a good education to kids by providing necessary books and by having certain rooms in the library just for children and having all reading levels from pre-K to college. Schools also bring kids to the library to check out books.
My next reason of why public libraries make America stronger is by providing books like math, reading and spelling to people that need more help on a subject for no price at all. They also help by giving space for tutoring. Libraries get donated money for special materials and people to tutor kids and adults there.
My third and final reason why public libraries make America stronger is a lot of people in the world cannot afford to just go out and buy interesting books for a good price. But public libraries help these people by providing educational and interesting books for free so we can all become stronger readers. And public libraries provide a space to sit and just read if you do not have a card yet.
Those are three reasons public libraries make America stronger, giving good education to children with necessary books, books such as math, reading and spelling for people who need extra help on a subject, and a lot of people cannot just go out and buy interesting books for a good price but libraries provide free books for those people. Public libraries make the U.S. extremely smart and extremely strong providing the right books for all people and helping the lives of those who need free books. That is how public libraries make America stronger.
Caitlyn Coyle, third place
Why do libraries make America stronger? Libraries are one reason America is a strong country. Without libraries we would have no strong leaders and be considered one of the weaker countries. There are many reasons America is stronger with libraries and here are a few.
First, without libraries many children would not get as good of an education. Poorer countries have more uneducated children. According to List Top Ten the third most uneducated country is Afghanistan, with Niger as the first, and Qayoom Suroush says that their libraries are poor and have untrained staff. In America we have great libraries and a higher education rate. Libraries are a place where students can go to increase their ability to read and write and in America we have great libraries and well-trained staff. That is one reason we have good education in America and countries like Afghanistan don’t. Countries with a higher education rate are looked as stronger countries to other places.
Second, libraries have many books on America’s history and other countries’ history. If our leaders read about our history they will less likely to make the mistakes that other great leaders before us made. Also if we read about other countries’ histories we might know the reason for what they might be doing today. If we know the reason they are doing something we would probably be less willing to go into war and solve this more peacefully instead. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” If we read books we can learn about our history so we don’t make enemies and so we keep wars from starting. That would make America stronger.
Finally, libraries are a good place for poorer people and people who don’t speak English to get books for free and at any level. According to Statistic Brain, 14 percent of adults in America cannot read. Some of those people are probably immigrants who emigrated from places only knowing how to read and write in their native language or not at all. Some other people might not have enough money to buy books. Libraries are places where you can get books for free as long as you bring them back on time. Libraries also have books ranging different levels of reading. That would be useful to people just learning how to read. Libraries also have books in different languages or books with English to another language translation. This would be useful to immigrants. If we have more people that can read we will have more future businessmen or women and greater leaders in our society, which will make America stronger.
How can libraries make the world stronger? There are many reasons America is stronger with libraries. If every country just used one reason libraries make America stronger the world would be stronger. We would have higher education rates and more strong leaders and entrepreneurs. That is why America is stronger with libraries.