Editor's note: The following essay is the winning submission from Miranda Tate, Cloverdale High School senior and 2012 Putnam County DAR Good Citizen winner.
By MIRANDA TATE
The title of American citizen is one many take for granted. Most of us never stop and think about what being free is, or what happened in order for us to obtain out freedom.
Over the course of many years, battles were fought, lives were taken, families destroyed, and all for the freedom and happiness of American citizens. With the rewards of being an American citizen, we also have responsibilities and jobs, but as time progresses and our culture as a whole changes, so does our role in society.
When the United States was first founded many of the important roles of the people were to support the leaders, and help put this nation into working order. Many average people stepped up in times of need to fight for what they believed in.
Mothers sent sons and husbands off to war, not knowing if they would be seen again. Men put their lives on the line, not thinking twice about what they were doing. They just knew it had to be done in order to keep the United States a free country.
More recently, however, many of us have lost that sense of honor in our country. People don't feel the emotions to help keep the freedom of our country alive like they used to. Many "Americans" fail to even abide by the simple rules and laws that we have in order. Every day it's a struggle to keep the American culture we all so love alive.
The other day a little boy was talking about the Fourth of July. All he talked about was how cool all the fireworks are and how he loves going to the afternoon picnics with his family.
I asked him if he knew why we, as a nation, celebrate on that day. He said, "No I thought we just did it to have fun." That's not what kids should think. They should be raised on the knowledge of how this country was founded and why we celebrate the things we do.
As a society, we tend to turn everything into a profit. Every holiday has become a reason to buy stuff, useless stuff. We take religious holidays, cultural holidays and even average days, and make it all into reasons to buy and obtain junk.
Amongst the gifts and the joys of unneeded merchandise, we lose the true meaning of celebration. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ, not Santa and the presents. Halloween celebrates the life after death, not the candy and buying Halloween costumes, and the Fourth of July is about obtaining our freedom from England, and becoming our own nation, not shooting off fireworks, partying and drinking.
As a nation and as American citizens we need to bring our traditions and values back to what they were many years ago when the nation was first formed. Celebrate less about the gifts and the fun, and start to remember more of how our nation came to be and what was lost along the way.
We have a beautiful country and we need to preserve everything we can about it. We are the American people, and it's our responsibility to know what that means, and to keep the American way of life alive.