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Alice Marks of Duluth sent this photo of Russian exchange diver Leonid releasing an owl in 1991 at the University of Minnesota Raptor Center. Marks said: "As Leonid released the bird and watched it fly off into the sky, he smiled and said, 'Now I know what freedom is.' Leonid’s statement has stayed with me for years. It sums up the difference between the free choices we Americans take for granted and the lack of freedoms of the Soviets and so many others in this world today."

What does freedom mean to you?

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What does freedom mean to you?
Duluth Minnesota 424 W. First St. 55802

Terry Mahoney of Duluth: What does freedom mean to me? Freedom is so integrated into my life, how do I answer that question? Then thought of my life and what I do every day … waking up to a cup of good strong coffee and reading the newspaper, having a job that I worked hard to get and love to do, going out to dinner with friends, spending time with my 94-year-old father and hearing stories of his life, talking on the phone with my daughter who owns her own business in California — which is another freedom, relaxing with a glass of wine and visiting with my loving sisters, writing letters and sending boxes overseas to support my granddaughter. The simplest of things in life are free in this country. To be free to laugh out loud wherever I am and speak my own mind, (as long as I’m not harming others). To vote without fear of reprisal. To live wherever I want, dress the way I choose and travel when I desire. My father is a World War II veteran, I was married to a Vietnam veteran, my son-in-law is a Gulf War veteran and my granddaughter is deployed in Afghanistan. I have always been a patriotic American who is very conscious of the price we pay for our freedoms. I thank and salute all the veterans who made it safe to live in this country and all our freedoms possible. Thank you.

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Thor Sorenson of Duluth: I love America for many reasons; the one that rises to the top of the list is the many freedoms we enjoy. I never want to take these freedoms for granted. I love hunting, and in America I have the freedom to own a gun. I love to read the newspaper; consequently I am thankful for free press. I vote for people who have similar passions and beliefs, therefore I am thankful for the privilege to vote. I love to worship Jesus because he died for my sins; consequently I am thankful for a country that provides the freedom to worship! A special thank you to all the men and women who serve and have served in the armed forces to help keep our freedoms secure, and help others around our world to have freedom. God bless America, and please never take these freedoms for granted! Happy Fourth of July.

Dr. Dale Wain of Meadowlands: Byron, in his poem “The Prisoner of Chillon,” says “Freedom’s fame finds wings on every wind.” I concur, and suggest that freedom spreads like wildfire and is hard to extinguish.

Pat Mattson of Hermantown: The ultimate freedom to me is to have and be free! America, “the land of the free,” says it all. Each of us in this great country is born into freedom. Brave men and women, past and present, fought to keep our country free. No dictators, no supreme rulers; a president elected by the people for the people. For the above reason, I have the freedom to live my life as I see fit without fear but with consideration and respect of others.

Rosalie Sullivan of Duluth: What does freedom mean to me? Secret ballot! Freedom means that any American is free to criticize his government or its symbols anytime, anywhere, without fear of reprisal or punishment. He will not be publicly executed or suddenly vanish. Some Americans say that our government doesn’t listen to us. It notices elections.

Mark Lach of Superior: Lord, / I feel your love in a summer breeze / Your strength in a 100-year storm / Your beauty in a rain shower that / Turns into a rainbow / I feel our liberty and freedom through you, our flag and soldiers.

Marilyn Anderson of Two Harbors: Freedom to me means that I have many choices in how I live my life in our great United States of America! Responsibilities such as receiving the proper training at college, obtaining the type of job I desire, living in the area I can afford and want depends on the freedoms available and the inner drive I have to succeed. Financially it isn’t always easy to achieve my goals, but with perseverance I am usually successful, thanks to our freedoms. Another responsibility our freedom gives is that I have the choice of what religion I want to follow and live my life by. This freedom encompasses my total person, living my life not only for myself and my family, but anyone else who may need my help. I have always realized that freedom gives me many choices. Freedom also gives me much happiness and contentment living in a country where every person has freedom of speech, safety of not being taken a prisoner without a fair trial, freedom of the press and other basic freedoms. Our government isn’t perfect, of course, but it gives us all protection and freedoms, so that we can all sleep in safety each night.

Mrs. Elina Johnson of Floodwood: What does freedom mean to me? I can say in one word — love. We are among a few people in the world with absolute freedom to be truly American as a land, to unite to help each other to do whatever brings freedom to each and every one, to be a part of a place that is ready for peace on Earth and to love peace everywhere. Togetherness to build a loving home. We can all live in peace to work and play as human beings. Work together no matter who you are in philosophy or in our democracy as Democrat, Republican or whatever other there is to see each other’s point of view and work the best out for all standards of living.

Donald Andresen of Duluth: When I think of freedom, I think of the time I was called for jury duty. They told us at the orientation that 95 percent of all jury trials held in the world are held in the U.S. I’ve heard plenty of comments about the downside of our legal process, but I’d take a jury over one person telling me I’m sentenced due to disagreeing with them. I also think of the lady who told me a few weeks ago that if she got to ask one question of God, she would ask him why her life has been so hard. She went on to say that her kids are great, but many things in life do not bring her happiness. I’m thankful I had the freedom to tell her the story of a man named Joseph who had many things in his life that would likely cause a lot of unhappiness. His brothers were jealous of him and very mean to him; he was away from and out of touch with his family for many years; he was falsely accused and jailed. Years after all that trouble, when he was reunited with his brothers, he still told them that what they did to him they meant for evil, but God in the end meant it for good. The reason Joseph said that it was for good is because Joseph ended up having a very important leadership role that helped save many lives, including the lives of his own brothers, who had been so mean to him, during a drought. I’m thankful for having the freedom to share stories of how I’ve seen God acting in this world.

Alice Marks of Duluth: In 1991, before the break-up of the Soviet Union, a contingency of Master Divers from Moscow and Kiev participated in an international diving competition at the University of Minnesota Natatorium in the Twin Cities. My husband and I were among Roseville, Minn., residents who housed and entertained these foreign guests. Activities included a visit to the University Raptor Center. One of the Soviet divers, Leonid, was selected to release an owl that had spent several months at the center recuperating from an injured wing. As Leonid released the bird and watched it fly off into the sky, he smiled and said, “Now I know what freedom is.” Leonid’s statement has stayed with me for years. It sums up the difference between the free choices we Americans take for granted and the lack of freedoms of the Soviets and so many others in this world today. After the fall of Russian communism, my husband and I hosted a foreign exchange student from Siberia. When Masha would spot a sign saying “no” such as “no parking,” “no dumping,” “no trespassing,” and “no shoes, no shirt, no service,” she would comment, “I thought this was the land of the free.” She and my husband even made a photo collection of “no” signs. Masha’s idea of freedom, the absence of any restrictions, caused me to examine the necessity for laws and regulations in a free society. Freedom works only when people understand that limits are necessary so that each person can enjoy his or her measure of freedom. a very wise woman, who happened to be my mother, often quoted this: “One person’s freedom ends where the next person’s nose begins.” I treasure my encounters with Leonid and Masha, who taught me a deeper appreciation for and understanding of the freedoms we Americans must understand and treasure. May the same freedoms extend to each and every American as we aid those in other countries striving to achieve freedom of their own.

Barb Lammi of Cloquet: What freedom means to me / Frog searching in a tree lined creek on Ft. Dix / rain booted toddlers, anxious to find the elusive frogs, / splash and giggle. / C-17s roar, / steeply climbing, arching into the blue. / Retreat music over loudspeaker signals small hands over / heart, / standing tall, / quiet, / facing the unseen flag. / Until last note when symphony of young voices / rises once again / in the hot, / humid air.

Frank Michelizzi of Duluth: Freedom allows us to / live by the freedom of will / given to each of us by / God, our creator, at our birth. / No person should be denied / that divine gift from God, / but instead enjoy the / way of life God intended for us. / To be free is heavenly. / Give thanks to God / and America for granting / us freedom in our lives. / Freedom is the salvation of a nation!

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