Where I Have Been Map

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Land of the Free

On the first day of my African Students class, I was given an assignment to define what freedom means to me. My first thought was, a paper assigned on the first day is not my idea of an "easy A" senior semester, what had I gotten myself into? My next thought was, well wiki-pedia... looks like you will come to my rescue again! But then when I put all laziness aside and actually wrote how I feel about the country we live in an the opportunities we are given, this is what came out.

Freedom, to me, is both a great opportunity and an extraneous challenge. As Spider-man once said, “With great power comes great responsibility”. Although we do not have really cool tights and webs that shoot out of our wrists (However AWESOME that would be), I believe each one of us as an American citizen was given a great power of freedom, and have a great responsibility to uphold what that means. Living in a land of freedom, and being brave enough to take the challenge and responsibility that comes with it.

Our nation is split in almost every controversial issue. We are racially diverse, and religiously divided. To most people, this would sound like a negative trait, as if we are not a united country. But in reality it is the opportunity for us to learn how to be the person we want to be. It is the opportunity to learn from those different than us. It is an opportunity to exercise an open mind, which I truly believe in the only way to truly understand your own beliefs and yourself.

However, that freedom comes with responsibility. Think back to your freshman year. The year of confusion, nocturnal behaviors, excitement, freedom, and so much fun you never want to have again. When you attend a school like ours, the University of Tennessee, you are greeted with so many opportunities… the Greek Community, Honors College, Service Groups, Intramural Sports, Religious Groups, and Student Activities Organizations. Your opportunities to succeed and grow in this school are endless. However, at a school our size, no professor is going to hold your hand through your transition. No one is going to tell you what path you need to take and how to get there. At our school we have the opportunities of a lifetime, but the risk of failure. We decide which path we take. You make your own way, and if you succeed, you are rewarded an ultimate form of accomplishment that you can say you earned completely on your own… a diploma.

But college is just a practice for life. A place where we can grow, and take what we learn in the real world. And once again, no one is going to hold your hand through this journey. Once in the real world, the gift of freedom comes with learning to accept that everyone is different, that is the beauty of freedom. And to understand that you can learn something from every single, different person in the world.

So next time you get in a political argument, religious debate, or racial struggle....  Don't try to change anyone's believes. Because the most beautiful thing about our country and that we HAVE our own beliefs. What works for us. And through that idea, no matter what you believe, everyone is right.

An open mind will lead you to the ultimate reward of freedom… the diploma of life.

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