By CODY KELLAR
I think freedom is more than a word; I think freedom is a sign of independence to billions of people. I think freedom is having the right to say what you want to whom you want to say it. I think freedom is writing your feelings and beliefs for people to read. I think freedom is gathering for a cause, whether it is supporting something or attempting to stop something. I think freedom is believing in what you want: Christianity, Catholicism, Judaism or any other religion. I think freedom is one of the many values that make America stand out from the hundreds of other countries on this planet.
I think you and I are very fortunate to live in a country where we can speak and write our thoughts and beliefs. I cannot imagine living life without having the freedom I do now. In my eyes, it doesn't matter if you are a boy or girl, black or white, gay or straight: you deserve freedom. Freedom is as vital as peace.
Freedom does not come easily and it does not come to everyone; it should not be taken for granted. Never forget all the different people who have made great sacrifices in pursuit of freedom. To make the dream of freedom a reality for us, high prices were paid by others - that is what freedom is: sacrifice.
I do not think a nation can overcome its problems until freedom has come over the nation.
Anyone who takes their right to free speech, to petition, to assemble, or to choose their religion for granted should imagine living not in a country where you can voice your opinion, but in a country where you cannot. Could you imagine living in a house the size of your living room? Could you imagine living days with almost no food or clean water? Freedom is a privilege we have that others do not; we should not take it for granted. We should try to spread freedom to all the people who are not free.
With the privilege of having freedom comes the responsibility to be held accountable for the actions you make and the words you write or say.
You cannot say everything you would like to. For example, you cannot yell "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater. You also cannot attempt to hurt someone's reputation by lying about them. Freedom has limits and responsibilities. Without limits and the responsibility to be held accountable for the actions you make and the words you write or say, there would be no freedom; it would be too chaotic.
Those of us who have freedom should not take it for granted. Instead, we should help spread freedom to countries like Liberia, Nepal or Haiti, where the citizens are far from free.
THIS IS Cody Kellar's first-place essay. Other winning essays will appear on Monday's education page each week and in the Education category on The Messenger's Web site..