Essay Contest Winners

The Morgan County Bar Association conducted its’ annual Essay Contest, and the winners were awarded during a luncheon at the Elks club on Wednesday, May 11th at the Elks at noon. 

The winners are as follows:

1. Jamila Lanario, a student at Jacksonville Middle School

2. Grant Naeve, a student at Our Saviour School

3. Emma Guidish, a student at Jacksonville Middle School

Presenting the awards were Morgan County Bar Association president Liz Tracy and Morgan County State’s Attorney Gray Noll.

Read the winning submissions below:

The Sky is Our Limit
by Emma Guidish

To me, the Constitution means freedom, equality, and happiness. Although I admit that this isn’t something that I think about on a daily basis, its amendments and laws affect me in numerous ways. For example, the Constitution gives me freedom of speech, a right to an education, and a right to vote when I’m old enough. The Constitution is an amazing base and foundation for the United States. Just as America is ever changing concerning ideals, beliefs, and thoughts, the U.S. Constitution was made to be subjective to those changes and additions. This allowed the U.S to become more inclusive and equal in regards to the rights of every single citizen.

To start, the First Amendment allows me to have freedom of speech. I am so grateful for that, but I don’t realize how much it would affect me if that amendment wasn’t put in place. To be honest, I’m a fairly opinionated and talkative person. Like others, I like to talk, share my point of view on ideas, and express my beliefs. So many people have different thoughts, beliefs, and opinions on countless topics. I see that people have opinions that would have been brushed off and ignored if not for the Constitution. This allows people to freely express how they feel and stand up for what they believe in regardless of how others think. Consequently, this allows people to be happier and feel as if have been able to let out their feelings.

Additionally, the Constitution gives the right of equal access to FREE education (public schools). I can’t tell you how much I enjoy that. I love school, and the Constitution helped ensure that no matter who you are, what you have, or where you came from you have access to public education. This impacts me in every way. School is my thing–I may not be the best volleyball player, soccer player, or cheerleader, but school is something that can and will not ever be taken away from me. It empowers me to learn knowledge and share it for all to hear. Also, I put 110% into everything I do, whether it be projects, papers, or tests. I spend hours and hours trying to make it perfect because I take pride in my grades. Sometimes I’m teased but it doesn’t matter because they can’t tear me down. Or, when I use big vocabulary words, they laugh. But, I don’t use it for them, I do it for me, and with my head held up and confident because it makes me feel happy. If not for the Constitution, I don’t know if I would have gotten the same education I’m receiving now.

Next, I also truly appreciate the 19th Amendment the Constitution includes. As stated previously, I love standing up for what I believe in and being able to express my thoughts, and with this amendment, I’m able to do so. As a woman, without the Constitution, I wouldn’t be allowed to vote, in fact, 50.8% of the population wouldn’t be able to. This not only affects my life, but over half of the U.S. populations’ life. Because of the 19th Amendment, the United States has become more truly reflective of what the majority of the population believes regarding government. That amendment allows people to not be denied the right to vote no matter their gender. This helps women to make a difference and allows them, us, and myself to be able to take action for what we want. Also, by allowing any sex to vote, there will be more perspectives available to listen to. Many people go through differing lives, obstacles, paths, and challenges, and by permitting an entirely opposing gender to vote, more people will be represented and heard. And the happier the people are, the happier the country itself will be.

Overall, the Constitution has a real positive effect on the U.S. today and every single life that it protects. In regards to mine, I don’t think I realize how lucky I have it and how many other parts of the world don’t get to experience the privilege that I receive through the rights of the Constitutional amendments like the 1st Amendment, or it’s guarantee to equal access to public (free) education, and the 19th Amendment. This extremely important document is why I live my life so freely, happily, and have many opportunities to do so. So to conclude, the U.S. Constitution, a single piece of paper, has changed lives and opportunities for millions, and still millions more to come, by offering more open, fair, and equal rights to all citizens, despite their status. Concerning me, all I can say to the U.S. Constitution is thank you, thank you for allowing me to live in a country where for the most part, the sky is the limit.

Grateful for Change
by Jamila Lanario

Can you imagine what a nation without laws would be like? Would formation of order be inevitable, or would there be complete chaos around every corner? Well, to avoid the latter, many nations establish and follow a simple set of guidelines for basic structure. For America, this meant the establishment of the Constitution. Not only were rights given and guidelines put in place with this document, but they have also been altered over time–whether it be through

amendments or through the addition of an act. Certain flaws, injustices, or out-of-date practices present within the document were acknowledged and, in some cases, combated–and when things were fought for, goals were accomplished. As I have followed American history in school, I have learned all about the rights others have gained and the opportunities they had in turn. I believe that these tweaks to the Constitution are what allow it to still structure the government, even though it was made some hundreds of years ago. To me, the Constitution as a whole means progression and growth as a result of hard efforts, which have gained me the right to be where I am today.

First, the Constitution allows me and every American citizen constitutional rights, no matter our race. Our country has grown tremendously since the Constitution was ratified in 1788, and the document has been a way to make changes and truly keep our laws just. When I think of how we have grown as a nation, I specifically think of the rights various minority groups have gained over time and how their efforts have led to me having my rights. Back when slave labor and trade rose to prominence, some opposed the practice and joined the abolitionist movement, which fought for freedom for enslaved African Americans. With the rise of this movement and the constant fight for their cause throughout the Civil War, their efforts resulted in the liberation of slaves through the 13th amendment. The combat of racial discrimination continued, and the passing of the 14th amendment came about, which allowed citizenship and constitutional rights to freed slaves and everyone else born in the United States. I was born in America, but have Filipino roots–thanks to this amendment, my constitutional privileges and immunities are ensured and cannot be taken away without due process of law. Despite my race and background, I am not denied the typical rights that are granted to other citizens. I value my inclusion and I’m grateful for the opportunities I have because of it.

Moreover on the topic of inclusivity, our constitution and country has also grown regarding women’s rights. The right to vote for women, or women’s suffrage, was not addressed in the Constitution until later–they were left out of voting laws for the most part. Main perceptions of women around that time made them out to be very compliant people, with roles only at home and as caretakers. Some opposed the idea, and as more women stood up and opposed these notions, the fight to get rid of this narrative and have more equal opportunities grew. Equal rights were wanted, and the women’s suffrage campaign grew more and more. The campaign fought by petitioning and pressuring Congress to allow them to vote, among other methods. Of course, the end result of their work was the 19th amendment. I’m not of age to vote yet, but I’m grateful that, due to efforts made, women in my family and others’ have a say in electing officials they think best fit. In the future, I will be sure to represent myself–all thanks to past hard work and the willingness to change voting laws in the Constitution.

I’ve talked about people taking action and expanding rights for the greater good, but not about the fact that a constitutional amendment is actually what gave them the right to do so.

Known as the most important amendment of our Constitution’s Bill of Rights, the first amendment has granted me and other American citizens the right to free speech and expression. Our world is constantly changing, and this basic right has allowed us to openly challenge, for example, previously mentioned common beliefs or injustices faced. Apart from what I have brought up, progress regarding equal rights has been made in these previous years, and it’s gratifying to see that, when expressing your beliefs, you truly can get what you fight for. As movements have the right to grow and people are free to speak up, it’s promising that a nation can evolve and advancements are made–and with those advancements, others will thankfully have the rights and opportunities to prosper.

Being the framework of our nation, the amendable U.S. Constitution means growth and progression to me. Specifically, it means progression by developing more inclusive laws in accordance with its growth. However, said growth may not have been possible without the rights already established by the Constitution. I couldn’t be more grateful for the freedoms, privileges, and opportunities that I have thanks to the Constitution. As those in the past did, I will continue to use my rights for the greater good.

What the Constitution Means to Me
By Grant Naeve

In 1787, the United States Constitution was signed, which created the structure for the American government. It formed a government that respected freedom and valued the rights of citizens, and it ensured that the government would not have too much power over the common people. The Constitution officially went into operation in 1789 and has been the supreme law of the land since that time. I value the Constitution and I understand its importance in American society. It is a major document that gives us rights as citizens and protects our freedom.

One reason the Constitution is important to me is because it grants freedom to all citizens. There were very few nations that allowed a free, democratic government and that protected the freedom of the people when the Constitution was written. It is a revolutionary document in this aspect. The Constitution provides freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to practice religion, and freedom for citizens to assemble. Having the ability to speak freely, to congregate whenever, and to practice religious beliefs is something that many countries didn’t have. Even today, there are still several countries where these abilities are restricted. As a citizen of the United States of America, I can be free to do these things without the fear of being punished, which is not something that all people have the opportunity to do. The freedom protected by the Constitution is a major reason that it is important to me.

Another reason I value the Constitution is because it protects social justice and civil rights. The United States Constitution upholds the inalienable rights that were referenced in the Declaration of Independence. It has given protection to social injustices such as unfair treatment based on race, gender, or wealth, persecution for religious beliefs, and unequal freedom between different people since it was created. There have also been amendments to the Constitution that were written later and that provide rights not originally stated in the Constitution. Among these is the second amendment, which gives the right to a sense of security and the right to own firearms, the sixth amendment, which provides a fair and speedy trial for those who have committed crimes, and the thirteenth amendment, which grants the right to not be enslaved. There are also amendments that don’t state new rights , but they expand on the Constitution’s protection against discrimination. Some examples of this are the fifteenth amendment, which gives African Americans the right to vote, and the nineteenth amendment, which gives women the right to vote. The protection of civil rights and equal treatment of all people is another reason I find the Constitution important.

Another reason the Constitution is meaningful to me is because it guarantees that the government does not have unfair power over the citizens. When writing the Constitution, it was important to protect the rights of the people and to make sure the government could not have too much control over them. The Constitution established three branches of government and gave them checks and balances over each other to ensure that they would not become too powerful. In doing this, the rights of citizens are not compromised, and the government does not have the ability to be tyrannical. It is important to have individual rights that are respected by the government, so I appreciate the limitation of the government’s power in the Constitution.

In conclusion, The United States Constitution is a meaningful document in American society. It protects the freedom of people, civil rights, and the people’s right to not be controlled by the government. These freedoms and liberties are crucial to life in the United States and are major reasons that the Constitution is important to me.

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