Kamaljeeth Vijay and Patrick Lichtner, seniors from Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem and who were joined by their parents, were named winner and runner-up in a countywide civics scholarship essay contest sponsored by theLegacyof1776.com, the Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer.

The contest was open to all Bucks County high school seniors, who were asked to submit a 250-to-300-word essay addressing “What, if any, are, should be or should not be limitations on the freedoms granted and responsibilities imposed by the Bill of Rights … and why?

A select panel of six judges comprised of three members of the faculty of Bucks County Community College, a former editorial editor of the Courier Times, a retired Harvard-educated attorney and the editor of theLegacyof176.com, chose the winning entries.

“The purpose of the contest is provide our next generation of voters and political leaders with incentives to gain a comprehensive understanding of American civics, our nation’s founding documents, and our nation’s history while enhancing their critical thinking skills,” says Newbert, who along with Shane Fitzgerald, the executive editor of the Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer, presented the awards to Vijay and Lichtner.

(l to r)   Gregory Geruson (President of Holy Ghost Preparatory School l) Shaane Fitzgerald (Executive EditorBucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer), Kamaljeeth Vijay, Patrick Lichtner, Dick Newbert (Editor of theLegacyof 1776.com) and Kevin Burke (Principal of Holy Ghost Preparatory School)

Vijay, an HGP senior who will major in computer science and has applied to the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Texas, and UCLA, wrote the winning essay. He received a $2,500 scholarship.

Kamaljeeth Vijay being recognized as the contest winner ny Dick Newbert

Winning Essay written by Kamaljeeth Vijay

When the Constitution of the United States was being drafted, one of the largest concerns was that of centralized power.  The United States had just separated from Great Britain, which was headed by a powerful King and a Parliament, and those who crafted the Constitution sought to avoid such a powerful central government by establishing federalism: the separation of power between the federal government and the state governments.  By confirming that the states would have powers not delegated to the federal government in the 10th Amendment, the authors of the Constitution created a crippled nation where the two groups do not cooperate for the benefit of the people, but instead incessantly squabble at the expense of the nation.

A severe limitation on the powers of the states would represent the death of federalism, a founding principle of the United States, but its status as such does not mean it is exempt from criticism.  The freedom of states to exercise reserved powers has been extremely detrimental to many Americans.  Jim Crow Laws, local and state laws which codified racial segregation throughout the Southern States, were the product of the freedom of states to legislate away the constitutional rights of minorities and the inability of the federal government to stop them via executive order.  Even now, the inconsistency between states regarding COVID-19 vaccine mandates has led to a surge of new cases in some states, but not in others.

It could be argued that giving the federal government the power to immediately ban Jim Crow Laws and enact a national COVID-19 vaccine mandate would set a dangerous precedent, but this perspective on federal power is overly pessimistic.  If we view the federal government as an agent of positive systemic change, we can improve the lives of all Americans, regardless of state. 

Lichtner, a Holy Ghost Prep senior who has applied to Navy, Army, and Penn State and plans to major in finance, was awarded a $1,000 scholarship for his second-place essay.

Patrick Lichtner receiving his award from Dick Newbert

Second-Place Essay written by Patrick Lichtner

The United States was founded on the principle of protecting the individual freedoms of those who came to live here. Because of this, people have come from all parts of the globe for religious freedom, business ventures, and to escape persecution.  I believe the United States should hold true to its founding values and continue to protect and support the freedom of her people and everyone around the world.  Thomas Jefferson, the scribe of the Declaration of Independence, displayed his total support of individual liberties at the time of the American Revolution: "I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.."

Freedom can be seen as dangerous, because it is unpredictable and requires the government to give up total control over the population.  However, this is necessary to ensure the people have the ability to exercise the rights plainly listed in the constitution. The one limitation to peoples' freedom should be when their choices, actions, or beliefs infringe on life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of others.  We all should have the right to exercise our freedom, until it comes at the expense of others.  Having this individual freedom comes with great responsibility.  This responsibility entails that we must be conscious of our effect on our environment, and those around us.

We must be sure to value the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of our neighbors like they are our own.  We must be responsible in our decisions, we must be empathetic towards those who are oppressed, and we must be understanding of those who hold different beliefs than our own.  If Americans do all of this, we will continue to be a country that nourishes the liberties of her people. We will be the country that the founding fathers intended for us to be.