A Celebration Of American And The American Flag

Sara Michelle Engbretson accepts the 2003 Patriot Prize Essay Contest Award.

2006


Winning Essayists


Top 50 Stars

2004


Winning Essayists


Top 50 Stars

2003


Winning Essayists


Top 50 Stars

2006 Patriot Prize Essay Contest Top Three Essayists

First Place
Philip Schafer
Tremont Junior/Senior Community High School, Tremont

“Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”
At first glance, the American Flag is quite ordinary. Fifty stars and thirteen stripes isn’t going to be winning any art contests any time soon. Maybe that’s why we don’t even give a second look let alone a second thought when we pass by in our daily routine. Although ordinary, it does serve its purpose quite well. The American flag is our identity and our license plate. It is who we are. Unfortunately we take so much for granted we fail to realize that the American flag is so much more than our identity. The American flag is why the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts in 1620. The American flag is the reason that the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. The American flag inspired Francis Scott Key to beautifully pen the words, “O say can you see…” at Fort McHenry in 1812. The American flag is what prompted Martin Luther King, Jr. to most eloquently state that he “had a dream” in Washington, D.C. in August 1963. The American flag is what sent those firefighters back into the inferno of the Twin Towers to save just one more helpless American that they didn’t even know, even if it meant death. What does the American flag meant to me? It means all of the above and countless other events and acts of heroism most of which go unnoticed. To what avail? For what purpose? I say it is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Second Place
Gabriela Tonietto
Resurrection High School, Chicago
“Remember Your Identity”

My sister once told me, “Recuerda tu identidad.” Remember your identity. Never forget who you are, where you come from, or where you are going. The American flag symbolizes the identity of this nation’s people. For me, the star-spangled banner embodies my sense of identity as a reminder of my ancestors and the hopes of my future. The American flag honors all that Americans have to be proud of. I, as an American, am proud of my family history and Creole heritage. This country allowed communities and cultures to grow and thrive as a land of opportunity, long before winning independence. During the French occupation of Louisiana, my Creole culture was born when three groups, French, Native American and African American combined. My culture is a large part of my life, and I will never forget those that lived, toiled and died so that I can enjoy freedom. America is the land of hope where all dreams are possible. Because of this beautiful country, I have been blessed with opportunities for a wonderful education and am able to pursue my aspirations. The flag is a sign of equality, unity, and hope. I am proud to be a part of this nation that embraces diversity. America’s past is marred with wars and trial of unity and strength, but the flag has survived the storms of history as has this great cultural melting pot of opportunity I proudly call home.

Third Place
Inga Sipaviciute
Alan B. Shepard High School, Palos Heights
“A Symbol of Endurance”

The American flag can stand for anything anyone wants it to stand for. It reminds the people that the United States had and still has strength, honor, courage, respect, and love. It shows how much our country had to endure in the years it has been here and what our country has seen over time. When I was seven years old, my family uprooted from Lithuania and moved to America because we won a green card. Everything was left behind: family, house, friends, jobs, and school. Coming to the United States meant new hope and new doors opening up for our family for whatever problems we were encountering at the time. The American flag has gone through changes and still floats strong on the pole. My family has gone through changes in the time that we’ve been here; some changes were magnificent and some changes were terrible and depressing. In the end however, we have come out as a strong family, no matter what, just as the American flag has come out of bad situations: torn and battered, but still afloat. It has gone through thick and thin, war and peace, and love and hate. My family has experienced the same emotions in a matter of a month. The flag means something more than just freedom or respect; it means family, new possibilities, and all the emotions balled up in one big feeling. The American flag stands for my family and what we had to endure while living on American soil, breathing American air.

copyright 2002   photo credits   audio credits