Graphical Headline September 9, 2002

Free to Be Me
The September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington affected all Americans, young and old, rich and poor, recent immigrants and Mayflower descendants. These attacks were aimed at symbols of the United States — symbols of American economic and military strength. But, in the end, perhaps what the terrorists most abhorred was that thing Americans hold most dear: our freedom. It is our freedom as Americans that ultimately makes us proud and that makes us both admired and hated in countries around the world.

What is freedom and what makes it so important? Great thinkers, politicians, writers, and artists have debated the meaning of freedom throughout history:

"What is freedom? Freedom is the right to choose: the right to create for yourself the alternatives of choice. Without the possibility of choice and the exercise of choice a man is not a man but a member, an instrument, a thing."
     — Archibald MacLeish

"The purpose of freedom is to create it for others."
     — Bernard Malamud

"We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home."
     — Edward R. Murrow

Even under attack, few would disagree that Americans have the luxury to explore the freedom of self-expression. Those in many other countries are not as fortunate. They struggle to obtain basic human rights that many U.S. citizens take for granted. Such freedoms include the right to free speech, the right to a fair trial, and the right to practice one's religion.

Of course, even in America, freedom is not always a given. In 2002, people are still discriminated against because of their gender, age, sexuality, or race. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a national nonprofit civil rights organization, eight blacks, three whites, three gays, three Jews, and one Latino become hate crime victims every day in the United States.


More Links
Amnesty International works to promote human rights around the world.

Human Rights Watch keeps tabs on human rights around the world. Read the World Report 2002, their latest review of human rights conditions around the world.

Tolerance.org fights hate and promotes tolerance.

Express Yourself
Freedom means different things to different people. If you watch the video to the right, you will see one teenage girl thinking of freedom as when she finally turns 18 and can live by her own rules instead of those set by her parents. Other teens in the video talk about the freedom to choose one's own course of action. For others, the freedom is something that exists in each person's mind — a freedom to think for one's self or even to think something different from what is considered the status quo. It's a freedom of expression and a freedom to be different. In an ideal free society, you have the ability to truly be yourself and to express yourself without fear of ridicule or harm.

You probably have your own thoughts about what freedom means. An analytical essay can help you clearly express yourself — what you think — in writing.

Analytical essays combine evidence with commentary to help a reader understand the writer's point of view. It's important to have opinions, but people will take your opinions more seriously if they are backed up with evidence and with sound, clear reasoning.

There are many different types of evidence that you can use in writing an analytical essay. You can pull material from personal experience, hypothetical situations, books, newspapers, report data, or from information heard on a news or radio program.

The second key to writing a good analytical essay is providing clear, explanatory commentary about that evidence. What is the point of the evidence to your topic? A good rule of thumb for a successful analytical essay is that every piece of evidence should be followed by a couple sentences of commentary, says Stephen Hettleman, a high school English teacher who appears in Riverdeep's Write for Your Life: Analytical Essay product.

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Powers of Persuasion
In a persuasive essay, the writer tries to use evidence, humor, or emotions to persuade the reader to believe what the writer claims to believe. Here are two recent persuasive essays, taking different views of a United States war with Iraq:

"The Road to Baghdad," an essay in favor of war with Iraq, written by Senator John McCain

"Who Wants This War?" an essay favoring caution and deliberation by Slate.com editor, Michael Kinsey

The Freedom to Read
One of the most basic and treasured freedoms in a democratic society is freedom of speech. You are free to think what you want and say or write what you want. There are occasional limits on that speech — some lawful and some not — but the basic freedom should be immune from challenges and upheld as your First Amendment right.

Every September since 1982, groups including the American Library Association and the American Booksellers Association have sponsored Banned Books Week. The event will be marked September 21 to 28 this year and the theme is "Let Freedom Read."

Why Banned Books Week? In a time when we were appalled at the Taliban's destruction of art, books, music, and centuries-old statues of Buddha in Afghanistan, why weren't more people appalled by the burning of books — Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Shakespeare — in Pennsylvania and New Mexico?

More often, challenges to your freedom to read are more subtle. Books are challenged by concerned citizens, who lobby and fight, trying to get the books either removed from school or public libraries or put in restricted sections. The number of such challenges have steadily increased each year. If not for the efforts of librarians, books by Judy Blume, Robert Cormier, S.E. Hinton, and even Mark Twain might be banned in libraries. Ask your librarian if anyone has tried to have books removed from your library. You may be surprised by what you hear.

Related Activities
Write for Your Life
Explore freedom and the writing process in Write for Your Life: Analytical Essay.
Democratic Movements
Learn more about other countries' struggles for human rights in this Xcursion.
Extremes of Freedom
Consider ways in which freedom can be restricted in this Xcursion.

Banned Books Week
Visit the Banned Books Week site for more information. Be sure to check out the Action Guide for suggested activities. Also, read the essay on banned books by former ALA president, Nancy Kranich.