Mason Mignano, a freshman at Gilbert Christian High School, has won second place in the national Speaking Out For Freedom essay and video competition hosted by the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University.
The Gilbert teen, son of Michael and Laura Mignano, wrote an essay that had to address questions such as, “What is the American Idea? How has the American Idea helped us overcome past struggles in our nation’s history, and how should it unite us during these politically divisive times?”
Essayists also were required to reference the Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Mason is a busy student on and off campus.
He plays on the high school soccer team, trains in jiu jitsu at Solid Ground Jiu Jitsu/ Atos East Valley, volunteers in the children’s department and set-up/tear-down crew at Calvary East Valley Church, has the role of George Wickham in the upcoming school production of “Pride and Prejudice” and plays acoustic and electric guitar.
In his essay, Mason wrote, “Overlooking a battlefield where over 50,000 American patriots sacrificed their lives, Abraham Lincoln solemnly began a speech: ‘Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal’…This idea would be echoed throughout America’s history… Refocusing on this same ideal can also help us through our current politically divisive times.”
His winning entry comes with a $250 prize.
“The students who contributed essays and videos to this year’s Speaking Out For Freedom competition demonstrated an understanding of our nation’s struggles to fulfill the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence throughout our history and our struggle to live up to those truths today,” said Ashbrook Center interim executive director Jeffrey Sikkenga.
The Ashbrook Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit educational organization offering programs and materials for U.S. history, government and social studies teachers; collections of the country’s most important documents and writings on a wide range of topics; and an online portal to these and other resources: TeachingAmericanHistory.org.
In his essay, Mason retraced the founding of America, including how the Declaration of Independence contains a “unifying core belief in individual freedom.”
He then moved to the Gettysburg Address, noting how Lincoln reminded war-weary Union troops that “the unique American ideal of freedom was worth the fight.”
In writing about King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Mason said, “King knew Americans needed to be reminded of the freedom envisioned by the founding fathers.”
“King’s focus on individual unalienable rights was a direct allusion to our founding ideal.”
He also noted how Americans came together in World War II, noting “Today, America is facing a new political crisis at home” and that Americans “should refocus” on the ideal of individual rights.