TICONDEROGA - A pair of St. Mary's School students will be the featured speakers at Flag Day ceremonies in Ticonderoga.
Sponsored by Ticonderoga Elks, the Flag Day festivities will take place Sunday, June 13, at 1 p.m. in Bicentennial Park. In the event of bad weather, the ceremony will be moved to the Ti Armory on Champlain Avenue.
Kathleen O'Neill and Shelby Spaulding of St. Mary's were named guest speakers after winning the annual Elks essay contest. This year's theme asked, "What is the American Dream?"
O'Neill won the grade 5-6 age group and Spaulding won the grade 7-8 category.
The contest was open to students from St. Mary's, Ticonderoga, Putnam, Crown Point, Moriah, Schroon Lake and Mountain Christian Academy schools.
"St. Mary's is honored to have two of their students' essays chosen for each division," said Lori Fox, St. Mary's social studies teacher. "The girls thought very hard about what the American Dream is and what it means to them and their future. Everyone at St. Mary's School is proud of their achievements."
O'Neill and Spaulding will read their winning essays at the Flag Day event.
Spaulding's essay reads:
"What is the American Dream? We have many dreams, but one stands out above the rest. It is the dream that created our country, a dream we will fight to the death for, if we must. It is the dream of freedom.
"Let's go back, back to the year 1620 when the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts. They sailed for months to escape religious persecution in England. Around 140 years later, the descendants of those very settlers fought for their own idea of freedom. They dreamt of the freedom of being their own country, creating their own rules and governing themselves. Today we are still reminded of their hard work, they created homes and cultivated the land. Their blood was shed for the dreams they believed in. We are also reminded of their sorrow in the hardships they endured to create a better future for their families.
"In conclusion, the American Dream is freedom. There is a lot of work needed to achieve any dream."
O'Neill's essay reads:
"The American dream is freedom and equality. We, as people, have this because of past Americans. Great people such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington revolted against Great Britain, then President Lincoln freed the slaves which ensued freedom to all Americans.
"People want their freedom because, as modern day Americans, we know no other way. Without freedom we wouldn't be able to show who we really are. People want to be able to express their emotions, briefs, freedom of press and religious views openly without any fears of being persecuted.
"These rights did not come easily. Americans fought and died for these rights starting with the Revolutionary War, through the present day conflict in the Middle East. Both my grandfathers fought, one in World War II and the other in Korea. They made these sacrifices so that my family and I can enjoy the American Dream of today. Although I never met either of them, I am very proud of their service.
"Equality, a right of Americans, was an important issue to the late President Kennedy. He believed that regardless of race, creed or color all Americans should be treated equally.
"In conclusion, we should all understand that the American Dream has a price. The price for that, for over 200 years our soldiers fought and died to keep our freedom. Every time I say the Pledge of Allegiance I remember all the sacrifices and I say, thank you."
In 1907 the Order of Elks declared June 14 as Flag Day. In 1911 the Grand Lodge directed all local lodges to observe Flag Day. In 1949, President Harry Truman, a member of the Elks, designated June 14 as Flag Day by signing an act of Congress.