Let freedom ring!
Fourth of July festivities take on a deeper meaning for an international student who grew up without the freedoms many Americans may take for granted.
Adi Redzic ’09 was born in Montenegro, a nation that was then a constituent republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This summer, he is on campus working as an intern in the Office of College Advancement and preparing for the upcoming academic year, when he will serve as vice president for college relations of the Student Government Association and editor of the St. Norbert Times newspaper. He is majoring in political science and international studies.
He writes here about what freedom has come to mean to him.
The night was dark and seemingly peaceful, until we heard … explosion! screams!
I was a six-year-old boy at home in Montenegro and I had no idea what was happening. My brother and sister and I ran from one side of the apartment to another seeking a hug and safety from our grandmas, without even realizing the extent of fear they were feeling, not knowing what to do themselves nor how to protect us.
Soon after, our parents were back at home, making sure that we were alright and explaining what had happened. Someone had activated a bomb under our cars causing the two of them to explode. “Why?” I remember asking. Although I don’t remember the answer, I know it was something that a child would hardly understand, but that would be instilled in his memory.
Today, 14 years later in De Pere, Wis., I sit here remembering that occurrence and wondering about what has happened since. I have been living in the United States for three years now. Two of those years have been spent at St. Norbert, thanks to some great people who have given me the opportunity to seek what is so very valuable—freedom.
Looking back at those years and thinking about freedom, I have to admit that many of them were spent struggling to find a way to pursue independence.
I remember a few words from my journal from back home—“freedom” and “independence”—and that they were underlined numerous times. A very vivid memory of writing down these words, after bumping into any large obstacle in my life, has stuck very closely with me.
It felt as if everything would be better if I only were able to obtain that liberty from being limited, either by societal norms or by a government’s oppressive regimes. An instinct or not, one thing has become clear to me—I was right.
Upon my arrival in the United States, and at St. Norbert College in particular, I was introduced to the founding ideals of this diverse country and I felt as if the grip that had been around me for so long finally started releasing.
That people might be able to disagree with the government, or even dislike the president openly, was quite a change for me.
Even to walk alone at night without reasonable fear that someone might shoot you just because you were different, was new to me here.
But it was not until July 4, 2006, that the reality of this new-found freedom really sunk in.
I was staying with a wonderful family from De Pere who had hosted me for the summer, when I heard explosions; something like gun-fire, or maybe even a small explosion.
There were only two of us in the house, the family dog and I, and the dog was getting very wound up at the sounds. I was not sure what to do. Then I told myself, “Hey, you are in America, you can call the police, and they will actually come!”
But, all of a sudden, I realized that those “shots” were actually fireworks celebrating 230 years since the Declaration of Independence was signed, or rather, since the founding ideal of this country—liberty—became official.
That fireworks experience made me understand what Americans must have felt in 1776 when they won their independence after fighting for it.
I felt as if my eyes unexpectedly opened and I realized that there was a reason why I used to underscore those words, independence and freedom, as they are essential to one’s ability to reach one’s own goals.
I feel now as if I have found a home away from home, and I hope that my countrymen and women in Montenegro will be able to continue the huge progress they have made, since the dissolution of Yugoslavia, towards discovering this freedom for themselves.
The United States, more than any other country in the world has, since its very foundation, been encouraging, in one way or another, exactly this notion of making dreams come true; hence the expression, the American Dream.
Many people have different understandings of what that dream is all about, but the way I see it is that all people are created equal and entitled to those three wonderful and irrevocable rights—to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Therefore, I am thrilled to be able to share these ideals with you today and wish you a Happy Independence Day!