Constitution Trial Judge Says ‘Freedom Isn’t Free’ | Community News


As judge of the Constitution Essay Contest, Thomas Colleton encourages writers to recall an experience with the First Amendment right to peaceful assembly.

Colleton’s 20 years of service in the U.S. Navy included service in the Vietnam War before his retirement as Chief Warrant Officer Three in 1988. He remembers the role the First Amendment played in getting people to speak out against the Vietnam War.

“When we arrived from Vietnam, we couldn’t wear our uniform. People called us “baby killers”, we were spat on and called names because of the Vietnam War. But you live in America and you have the right to do that,” Colleton said.

He said people in other countries would be jailed for gathering and protesting government decisions. During his travels with the military, he visited countries where these rights were not available to citizens.

“People in America don’t know the value of what they have,” Colleton said.

This year’s annual Constitution Essay Contest, founded by attorney Larry Kobrovsky, focuses on the First Amendment, but specifically seeks readers to express their ideas on “the right of the people to assemble peacefully and to demand the government to redress its grievances.”

The essay contest prompt is “What does the ‘right of the people to peaceful assembly’ mean to you and its importance to American society?”

As Chair of the McClellanville and Awendaw Constituent School Board, Colleton values ​​the promotion and improvement of education. He has been involved in local education ever since he joined his children’s school PTA after returning from Vietnam because he didn’t think the school’s education standards were up to par. . He has continued to invest time in local education over the past 30 years as a constituent council member.

Colleton appreciates the educational opportunity an essay contest provides. Previously, he judged an essay contest for senior graduates.

Colleton hopes that the authors of the essay will deepen their research and create an essay of critical analysis with contrast and comparison. He said writers should include life experiences related to the right to peaceful assembly where appropriate, such as sharing an experience of a peaceful protest and explaining the reason for their participation.

He said the editorial prompt had current implications, as protesters in Russia who support Ukraine are not safe to voice their opinions.

“I tell people all the time, ‘freedom isn’t free,'” Colleton said. “You can see it now in different countries around the world.”

Contest Information

Judges will look for a well-written, focused essay that is logical, clear, and stays to the point. An authentic voice often distinguishes one essay from another.

The essay contest started on March 9 and ends on April 13. Only online submissions are accepted. Entries must be submitted to:

The competition is open to students and adults. Students from local middle and high schools are encouraged to participate. In addition, the teacher with the most students in their class participating in the contest will receive $250.

The best essay in each of the three age categories will receive a cash prize:

College Winner – $250

High School Winner — $250

Adult winner — $500

Essays should be double-spaced in Times New Roman 12 point font. Middle school students should not write more than 300 words. High school students and adult essays should not exceed 500 words.


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