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2014 Inaugural Scholarship Winners

In 2014, applicants addressed how the Bill of Rights affected their daily lives. The Inaugural Scholarship Program drew applicants from almost 20 area high schools located in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake or McHenry counties.

“I appreciate the opportunity to help today’s high school seniors further their education and have been impressed with the overall quality of the essays,” said Attorney Richardson. “Thank you to everyone who helped with this year’s program. The 2014 submissions have set my expectations higher than I could have expected for next year’s essays.”

Grand-Prize Scholarship, Madeline Schulze, Maine South High School

ESSAY: The Bill of Rights affects my daily life far more than I usually appreciate. The first ten amendments to the Constitution do not just come in to play if I happen to have a case that I am bringing to court, or say, a government test next week that I have to know them for. The Bill of Rights affects everything from my Twitter account to what I watch on television.

In today’s world, it may initially sound ridiculous that a set of rights adopted over 200 years ago, in 1791, could affect my daily life on such a routine basis. It really is incredible when you stop and think about it; despite the unbelievable changes the country has undergone since 1791, the first Congress under the new Constitution managed to ink out principles that still hold true in the America of 2014. Men who thought white curly wigs and tights were a good wardrobe choice inked out my ability to tweet freely. So when I sit on the couch with a bowl of microwave popcorn and watch the news, I have the Bill of Rights to thank for it.

My ability to use and be exposed to the media is especially dependent on the Bill of Rights. For example, if it wasn’t for the freedom of speech and freedom of the press granted in the first amendment, television could be subject to strict censorship by the party in power in the government. Thanks to the Bill of Rights, I can watch Fox News deliver their “Outrage of the Week” lamenting the latest perceived blunder of the government. While on the other side of the world, the television screen for CNN news goes black in Russia because the news casters were about to comment on Vladimir Putin’s recent actions. Blatant censorship is an everyday reality in countries such as Russia and China, so the freedom of speech and press that I enjoy cannot be undervalued.

In other countries, criticizing the government can lead to arrest and even prison. Trials in China are often little more than a publicity show controlled by the Communist party. And Putin has routinely manipulated Russia’s judicial system as a means of eliminating his political opponents. Meanwhile, I am free to tweet “Health care is way too expensive #ThanksObama” whenever and wherever I want. This popular hashtag is used frequently on social networking sites to praise, complain about, or make witty remarks regarding President Obama. However, if it was not for the Bill of Rights, none of the sarcastic or criticizing tweets would be allowed.

Essentially, the Bill of Rights affects my daily life by affecting me as little as possible.

The freedoms granted in the first ten amendments protect against a tyrannical government in order to ensure my right to do — within reason —w hatever I want. Without a doubt, the Bill of Rights safeguards my right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on a daily basis.

First Runner-Up, Andrew Beck, Rolling Meadows High School

ESSAY: Many miles from the Chicagoland area lies the National Archives Building of Washington D.C., which houses one of the most important documents in our country’s rich history. Within 700 Pennsylvania Avenue lies the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to our Constitution. Although geographically this aging paper is seven hundred miles away, chronologically two hundred and twenty five years old, it touches every American citizen each and every day.

Many my age may know the Bill of Rights as “that old paper we learned about while preparing for the Constitution test,” however, I know it as more. The Bill of Rights, this profound paper, is synonymous with opportunity, for it allows each and every inhabitant of this great land to follow their dreams. In my life, the Bill of Rights is present through every step, whether I realize it or not.

The first amendment, stated in few words, allows me to function as a human being, yet it allows so much more. Through this ability to freely express myself, I have learned to be myself: funny, creative, outgoing, smart, and a plethora of various adjectives. Because of this amendment, I am able to speak my words, not the words my government whishes from me. Due to this simple fact, I am provided opportunity, I am allowed to wake up each morning and follow my own path, am allowed to pursue my interests academically and extracurricularly. Most importantly, I am allowed my own future, for I have decided what career I wish to pursue and the path I wish to follow in order to achieve my goals, opportunities many Americans may overlook, but other countries envy. These words transcribed by our founding fathers years ago allow me my very own goals. My own dreams, ambitions.

Each word of the Bill of Rights is my own self. Because I have the freedom to speak my thoughts, I have been molded into a creative, funny, young man. Because I have the right to my own religion, I have grown strong in my faith, and practice it in my daily life. A faith that provides me with a moral code, a faith that has formed me into who I am. Because I have the right to my own property, I have become a hard worker, in my studies and my extracurriculars, so that one day I will have a job and purchase my own goods, goods that cannot be taken away from me.

The Bill of Rights wasn’t written many years ago and forgotten, for it affects each and every one of us in our daily lives. For me, the Bill of Rights allows me to be myself, and also allows me a myriad of opportunities. In being able to form my own opinions and voice them, I am able to create the future I want for myself. The Bill of Rights is a powerful force in my life, for it has allowed me to become myself and shapes my future.

Honorable Mention, Kate Didier, Prairie Ridge High School

ESSAY: A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inferences” was once said by Thomas Jefferson. He believed that citizens of the United States should have rights and duties in order to live freely. Today, I have many liberties due to the Bill of Rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of press, and rights against search and seizure. Without this document, we would not be able to live in the world that we know today. The Bill of Rights affects many lives, including mine. I believe that the First and Fourth Amendments affect my daily life the most.

In my life, I am able to discuss my opinions freely with my peers, voice my opinion to my teachers and class about current events, criticize the government without punishment, and write essays on whatever is on my mind. Last semester, I took Current Issues where we discussed politics, government, and newsworthy events. My teacher would give us a topic at the beginning of class every day and we would have to discuss the topic for about ten minutes. After discussing the topic, we would also read newspapers and magazine articles. Without freedom of press in the First Amendment, we would not have had the prerogative to read others written opinions and experiences. Freedom of speech is very important to me. Many other countries do not have this luxury, and I admit that I take this for granted. The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights allows me to voice my own opinions as well as hear what my classmates have to say about issues.

I am also able to live in my home without someone coming in and searching my room. This freedom gives me security and well-being because I am able to live without worrying about unwanted intruders. The Fourth Amendment allows my family and me to live freely and peacefully in our home knowing that we are safe from random searches.

Due to the Bill of Rights, all Americans are affected because it sets standards for us to live by, it gives us the right to be a citizen of the United States, and it gives us freedom of speech. It sets up the boundary between right and wrong, because punishment is given to those who have done wrong and reward is given to those who have done right. In my life, the First and Fourth Amendments are taken for granted because I speak and live freely every day. These liberties are what make America unique and different from other nations. Many countries consist of reigning tyranny and non-existent individual rights. In order to continue being a true democracy, I believe that the United States needs to continue using the Bill of Rights to guarantee citizens fair treatment, equal opportunities, and freedoms.

Honorable Mention, Nicole Hassman, Maine South High School

ESSAY: When the Anti-federalists insisted on a Bill of Rights, they had no idea the effects of its influence on the 21st century especially on a teenage girl such as myself. The Bill of Rights continues to be so influential over two hundred years later because it promises the timeless ideals of individual liberties and limited government. While all the amendments provide necessary freedoms, the most relevant amendments in my life are the first and ninth.

On a daily basis, I am thankful for my right to free expression. As a Catholic, I am aware of the persecution of my religion throughout different times of history. Due to the First Amendment, I can practice my religion while knowing that the government can take away my right to practice it. I am also able to enrich my own beliefs through learning and experiencing other religions. Besides freedom of religion, the First Amendment promotes the freedom of speech. With few limitations, I am able to speak my opinion on any given issue even if I have the minority opinion. This also means that adults, especially teachers, can teach their own beliefs based on their own experiences and knowledge.

As a student, this gives me a better perspective of the world and its problems. Even though I do not publish works myself, the freedom of press is an integral part of my life. Similar to the freedom of speech, the freedom of press allows citizens to be exposed to a variety of interpretations of news events. In some countries, such as the People’s Republic of China, the press is censored which more easily leads to the distortion or elimination of news. Together these freedoms create tolerance in the United States. By being able to understand others’ ideas, I have not only been able to better understand their beliefs, but also my own.

The ninth amendment encompasses the true spirit of the Constitution and American people, as it puts the power into the hands of the people. The Ninth Amendment asserts that although the Constitution and Bill of Rights give many rights to American citizens, rights not specifically enumerated are protected as well. For example, this amendment has gone to protect my right of privacy. As America continues to evolve and encounter new obstacles, this amendment will continue to protect my rights.

The first and ninth amendments personally affect me the most at this point in my life, but the other eight amendments protect important freedoms as well. I am happy that I haven’t had an instance where I have needed to use the rights of due process, but it is important that I have them if the situation ever occurs. Although the Bill of Rights protects many of my rights, as a minor, my rights are slightly limited. For example, a school can put limitations on my expression and my rights of due process. When I turn eighteen and become a legal adult, the Bill of Rights will affect my life even more.

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