Story time, kiddies!
In 1986 I was eight years old, and in third grade. The Statue of Liberty was constantly in the news: it was turning 100 years old, and was nearing the end of a long restoration effort.
That year, many of our school projects focused on the Statue, her role in local and national history, and the concepts for which she stood as a beacon to immigrants seeking their fortune in the United States. One homework assignment my class was given was such a project: an essay entitled "Miss Liberty and My Family." We were instructed to interview our families as research, and write up a summary of the role Miss Liberty (literally or figuratively) played in how we got here, and what the liberty she represents means to us now. Later we each read our essays in front of the class; I always liked that part.
Before you ask, there were no Native Americans in my class that I knew of, though in retrospect it'd have been interesting to hear their essays.
Newsday, a local newspaper, had set up Miss Liberty-themed art and essay contests throughout Long Island's schools. I wasn't aware of this, I thought I was just doing another piece of homework. So, it was entirely a surprise some time later when I was told I won the essay contest for my age group.
I vaguely remember being up on stage in a small ceremony in front of my classmates and my family. I was presented with a $100 savings bond, whatever the heck that was; the best I could ascertain was that even though I wasn't allowed to have that money yet, I'd surely be rich with it one day. I later received a laminated copy of the newspaper page with my name in it, and several copies of the special newspaper section that had all the winning essays and drawings from students of all ages across Long Island; it was finding those in a cabinet that prompted this post.
Anyway, all that TL;DR was the setup. Here's the essay, written by eight-year-old me after talking family history with my mom and grandpa for an evening, presented verbatim as printed by Newsday in June of 1986.
Miss Liberty and My Family
My Italian great grandfather and great grandmother were farmers in Italy. He came here for almost 2 years. Then he owned a whole apartment building because he worked very hard and became a jeweler. He sent for his wife. They lived in Brooklyn and had 13 children. My Portuguese great grandmother was a farmer and my Portuguese great grandfather was a fisherman. They got married in America. They lived in the Portuguese area of Boston, then the Portuguese area of New Jersey, then the Italian area of Brooklyn. That's why my great grandmother learned Italian before she learned English. My great grandfather became a citizen by agreeing to serve in the army. He was in the Tank Corps in World War I.
Liberty is freedom to believe in your own politics and religion. Liberty is good as long as there are laws to put order into our society. Because of liberty, we may vote for our own President and hope to get the person we want and hope the person will be honest.
Incidentally, that Italian farmer/apartment building owner/jeweler and his wife are the dashing couple you see atop this page.