Celebrating the Land of the Free
Americans are familiar with the word, but how often does a person sit and think about what freedom actually means, what the value of it is, and where it comes from?
In commemoration of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Friends of Freedom Reigns group is sponsoring a public event on Sept. 10 at Azalea Park to start that conversation.
The Celebration of Freedom event originated at Pinewood Preparatory School, which has built global awareness and a discussion of the language of freedom into its curriculum.
The school has several monuments on campus that coincide with its Freedom Reigns program – Freedom Hall, the 9/11 Walk of Honor, and the Francis Suddeth Josephson Liberty Garden – and thus are dedicated to the idea of freedom.
Many Pinewood private donors and parents have been invested in the Freedom Reigns program from the beginning; Johnny Linton is one of them.
He organized this year's Celebration of Freedom, which has previously been held at the school's Freedom Hall.
Linton's mother and father were both World War II veterans and are portrayed in the Freedom Hall mural, a project that he spearheaded.
“This event is a way of doing something to thank them for what they did for us,” he said.
The Tuesday event will begin with a video about Pinewood's Freedom Reigns facilities at 6 p.m. A variety of the school's students, including many from their foreign exchange program, will serve as ambassadors during the event. Student musicians from Dorchester District 2 schools will also play during this time.
Beginning at 7 p.m., Mayor Bill Collins will welcome the crowd, followed by an invocation from Rev. Willie Givens of First Missionary Baptist Church and a short talk about Pinewood's Global Scholars program from Jed Suddeth.
For Linton, it's important to “re-nourish” each generation on the meaning of freedom and the challenges it faces, otherwise the ideas “will be lost.”
Hence the choice in the main speaker, U.S. State Department officer Caleb Stevens, who will speak about his experiences abroad in Liberia and the challenges freedom faces there.
The Summerville Community Orchestra, led by Alex Agrest, will follow at 7:45 p.m. with a concert of patriotic music.
“The focus of the event is to reflect on the values that will help protect us in the future,” Linton said. “The concert is a celebration of those values, which is represented in the music.”
For Pinewood Prep senior Logan Dwyer, who was chosen to introduce the mayor, the Celebration of Freedom is a chance for the public to consider other events the way he has during his experiences abroad.
“I certainly hope lots of people attend,” he said. “I think it's important to come see international events in general. Events foster ideas, no matter whether we live, in Summerville or New York City, everyone is affected because we are international citizens.”
Kathie Sizemore, the school's director of communications and public relations, continued.
“[This year's event] is exciting because public places are great venues to bring people together. It's a larger venue for a larger audience. Azalea Park is such a great place for talking, reflecting and developing tolerance,” she said.
Linton said he expects around 1,000 guests.
The event is free to the public. Those wishing to attend may bring blankets, chairs and coolers.