School shrine to freedom grows

Published 10:22 pm Friday, May 4, 2018

John F. Kennedy Middle School received new additions to its “freedom shrine” from the National Exchange Club on Friday.

The national organization is dedicated to Americanism, youth work, community service and child abuse prevention. Members have erected freedom shrines at schools, libraries and other public spaces across the country for more than 40 years.

Each shrine features a collection of historic document replicas from American history. The shrine at John F. Kennedy Middle School reached a total of 30 with the two new additions: framed copies of Martin Luther King’s landmark “I Have A Dream” speech and the inaugural address of President John F. Kennedy in 1961, in which he famously told Americans, “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

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It’s only appropriate that JFK’s famous words are represented in a school from his namesake.

“That’s very special,” said Margaret Moore, president of the National Exchange Club Colonial District and member of the Suffolk Exchange Club.

The collection includes reproductions of the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris, the Monroe Doctrine, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and dozens of others. Club members provided books detailing the significance of each piece.

“These are all documents that we teach in history class,” said sixth-grade teacher Kelly Voshall. “Primary documents like these are how we learn who we are.”

The plaques were presented in a ceremony in the school auditorium that featured the student band and choir performing “Yankee Doodle,” “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” “America the Beautiful” and “Glory, Hallelujah.”

Moore explained that the purpose of these collections is to celebrate the freedoms Americans enjoy while acknowledging the price that was paid for them by brave men and women throughout history.

“if you look at them, study them, and use your imagination, the documents turn into wondrous windows which enable you to see the depths of our nation’s past,” Moore said.

The aptly named Kennedy Bailey, an 11-year-old sixth-grader, won the club’s essay contest. She received a certificate and gift card for her response to the prompt of “what freedom means to me.”

“It means that I have the right to be what I want,” Kennedy said. “That I’m allowed to express my feelings in any type of way I want to. I just wish people around the world could have this freedom.”