Essay winners announced

  • Monday, June 17, 2013

The winners of the First Amendment Essay Contest, sponsored by Larry Kobrovsky were awarded last week for their efforts. Karly Fitch (Second Place - Middle School), Syndey Memminger (Second Place - High School), Larry Kobrovsky, Preston Manning (First Place - High School), and Jody Stallings (teacher with the most students participating). Not pictured are adult winner Cindy Lee of the Isle of Palms and Roark Corson, the first place middle school winner. STAFF PHOTO BY SULLY WITTE

editor@moultrienews.com Local attorney Larry Kobrovsky and the Moultrie News are proud to announce the winners of our annual First Amendment Essay Contest.

This contest is held for middle school students, high school students and adults. A teacher is also awarded for having the most student entries as a way to encourage participation. This year’s number of entries was unprecedented, with several hundred middle school submissions.

This year’s topic was the meaning of the First Amendment’s “Freedom of Religion” clause.

At a time when conflicts between different religious beliefs and non-beliefs are at the heart of nearly every major political issue, the Moultrie News wanted to know what its readers and local students think about the meaning of the First Amendment, which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

After winning a federal lawsuit based on the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, longtime attorney Larry Kobrovsky wanted to make people more aware of the language of the Constitution, so he began a community-wide essay contest.

Most people think the First Amendment contains a separation of church and state, Kobrovsky pointed out, when in fact that concept comes from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote after the First Amendment was enacted. Misconceptions like this one are what Kobrovsky hopes to fix. “I’m convinced that the Constitution is the foundation of our way of life and why we’re exceptional,” he said.

“The more people who are aware of it and wrestle with the language, the better off we’ll be.”

Special to the contest this year was the addition of a featured judge. Gene Tumbleston, a former prisoner of war during the Korean conflict. With the help of his daughter Joanne Jarman, Tumbleston joined the Moultrie News staff in picking the winners. He is an 81-year-old Mount Pleasant resident. Tumbleston is just one of many POW’s who live among us in the Lowcountry. He is an unassuming man - not one to seek attention for his service to the United States and was included this year as a way to commemorate his service.

“This year’s program was very special to me,” said Kobrovsky. “I just returned from two weeks visiting the villages my mother and father’s family came from in Lithuania and in what is now Belarus. This entire area was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from the 1500s to 1795 when was it taken over by Russia.

It was part of the Russian Empire until the end of the First World War in 1918,” he said.

“In 1918,Lithuania and Poland became independent countries until the 2nd World War.

The Soviet Union took complete control over Lithiania and annexed the eastern third of Poland. Lithuania recently regained its independence and the eastern third of Poland that the Soviet Union had taken over has now become the country of Belarus, when the Soviet Union fell apart.”

Kobrovsky’s family lived there that entire time. Whatever country won the latest war would impose their religion and language on the conquered. Your rights were defined by your ethnicity and religion. There was no concept or expectation of individual rights or freedom of religion, he explained.

Kobrovksy visited the Memorial Stone written in Yiddish and Lithuanian in memory of the woman and children of Vidukle who were machine gunned and murdered at that site by the Nazis and their local collaborators. Every woman and child, no matter how old or young was marched there and killed. He met a Lithuanian woman there who was a young girl at that time.

“She remembered and decribed everything to me. My mother’s family came from this village,” he said.

“I truly believe America is a miracle in the history of the world and that our way of life here is guided by the very same principles our essay contest is about. It is best expressed in the quote by Justice Harlan in his Dissenting Opinion in Plessy vs Ferguson ‘Our Constitution is color-blind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved.’ Every village in Lithuania has a similar monument and mass grave. All my relatives I grew up with would have ended up in those pits had they not come to America.”

The winners

Jody Stallings, a Moultrie Middle School teacher, was awarded $250 for having the most student participation.

Preston Manning, a Bishop England High school student, won first place in the high school division and received $250.

Sydney Memminger, a Charleston Charter Math and Science student, won second place in the high school division and received $100.

Roark Corson, a student at Buist, won first place in the middle school division and received $100.

Karly Fitch, a Cario Middle School student, won second place in the middle school division and received $50.

Cindy Lee of the Isle of Palms was the adult essay winner and received $250.

Each winner also received a copy of the United States Constitution.

Judges looked for organized, clear and persuasive writing. Essays were judged based on content, organization, style and grammar.

Read their essays online at www.MoultrieNews.com.

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