Independence Day Perspectives; From the Many, One

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By Heather Bennett,

The beauty of The Emerald Coast brings together people from many walks of life, political views, religions, and races. On Independence Day we celebrate the birth of our nation in one of the most beautiful locations in the country. While some of us may disagree over the current state of affairs of this nation, most everyone agrees we love the United States of America, and the freedoms we enjoy. To celebrate this Independence Day, we asked various members of our community, from different backgrounds, what Independence Day means to them.


Susan Bowden – Sue is the President of the Democratic Women’s Club of Walton County. She is originally from Massachusetts and spent most of her adult life in Michigan before moving here with her husband in October 2016.  She has fond memories celebrating July 4th with her family at Lake Michigan. What Does Independence Day Mean to Me? “My grandparents and great grandparents all came to America in the early 1900s to escape the oppression of Eastern Europe.  The ones who stayed behind, were killed by the Nazis in World War II. I am very grateful to live in a country with free speech and a Declaration of Independence that states that all men {and women) are created equal. We don’t have a perfect union yet but at least there are many people here who stand up for change and strive to effect it.”

Tim Norris – Tim is the Walton County Republican Party Committeeman. He was born at Eglin Air Force Base to a military family and was raised in the area. Tim has enjoyed taking his family out to Crab Island to watch the fireworks in the Destin pass on the 4th of July. What Does Independence Day Mean to Me? “Independence Day means freedom. Our forefathers gave us great liberty in signing the Declaration of Independence, as did those who fought for our freedom in the Revolutionary War. All who have since fought to help us maintain our freedom are to be honored and recognized as well. Freedom isn’t free. May God Bless America and all those who have served and are currently serving.”

Lori Leath Smith – Lori is Publisher and Executive Editor of Bay Life and Destin Life. She is originally from Alabama and grew up visiting Destin with her family. On the 4th of July they would have a shrimp boil and walk down to the beach to watch the fireworks. What Does Independence Day Mean to Me? “Freedom is what Independence Day means to me! It’s also a time of remembrance of what our forefathers fought for – to guarantee our freedom, and thankfulness to be living in and positioned in the greatest country in the world!”

Clint & Effie Eagar – Clint, an industrial designer and artist, and his wife Effie, co-founder of TechX International, have a true modern-day immigrant story. Clint grew up in South Africa during apartheid, and Effie lived in mainland China. Both left their countries in search of a promising future. What Does Independence Day Mean to Me? “For both of us now citizens of this fine country we truly value all that this day truly means. For us it’s not as simple as picnics, concerts, barbecues, parades, etc. It’s not being persecuted, murdered, and all your liberties taken. It celebrates the legal journey we took and all the steps to create the life we now experience on a day to day basis. July 4th stands for what most of the world’s population craves for and the safety of our liberties. It’s interesting because my wife and I come from extremely different countries and cultural backgrounds, yet as human beings, have the common bond of hope, and the pursuit of happiness.

Russell Hughes – Russell is the Walton County Superintendent of Schools. He’s from Okaloosa County and has been a distinguished teacher, principal, coach and leader throughout the community, and has worked in the Walton County school district for 20 years.  What Does Independence Day Mean to Me “This holiday is about recognizing the privilege to make decisions about anything we can conceive if we are not infringing upon the well-being of others. In fact, our Country’s Declaration of Independence declares this to be true. As an educator, my thoughts automatically gravitate toward the expectation that all students have the opportunity and access to an excellent education. This is a right for every child in Walton County and in the world.”


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