‘What does the U.S. Constitution mean to you?’ A Winner of the Essay Contest is a Former 46-year resident of Bethel; Read the Winning Essays

Report by Paula Antolini, September 25, 2021, 10:29AM EDT

An essay contest was held in honor of Constitution Day, September 17, 2021, organized by State Representative Kimberly Fiorello with the question: “What does the U.S. Constitution mean to you?” The entries were to be up to 500 words maximum, and everyone was invited to participate — young students, older students, adults, parents, grandparents, anyone.

The deadline to submit the essay was Wednesday, September 15th and winners were announced September 17, 2021. The top 5 best short essays were highlighted in Rep. Fiorello’s social media and e-blast. Students who won received a special recognition as an essay contest winner.

There were THREE WINNERS and TWO HONORABLE MENTIONS in The 2021 Constitution Day Essay Contest and it includes: Dr. John R. Cleary, 81, a former 46-year resident of Bethel, CT, now living on North Carolina. Other winners were: 11th grader Logan Lindstrom of Sweden, now living in the U.S., 11th grader Tatum Chang of Greenwich Academy, Greenwich, CT. Honorable Mentions include: 4th grader Eva Begonja of Greenwich, CT and Stephen Stadtmiller of Greenwich, CT. (View full bios below.)


Read winning essays here:

Dr. John R. Cleary

Dr. John R. Cleary, 81, 46-year Bethel Resident


The United States Constitution establishes the law of the land. While its authors could hardly foresee the changes that would redefine what America was to become, they were wise enough to add to the embryonic document the ability to amend it to suit the times.

It is taken for granted that Americans will follow the law of the land, but not without challenge. Via the democratic voting process, Americans can alter or remove the laws and rules that are not compatible with contemporary thinking and practices. Since its creation in September 17, 1787 then ultimate ratification in 1789, there have been 27 amendments.

But that’s moot. The meaning of and connotations of the document can be as diverse as the folks who comment. If I were to scan Webster’s dictionary for the term “freedom,” I imagine I would see a picture of the Constitution beside it because that is the essence of its existence as enumerated in the first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights.

White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants, for the most part, separated from Britain, the mother country and “tyrannical” King George the Third, to create a new government, a republic form of democracy in which freedom “would ring,” as coined in 1831 in the lyrics by Samuel Francis Smith: “My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty.” Over the subsequent 240 years, the millions upon millions of aliens, immigrants, foreigners who immigrated to our shores had one goal in mind, freedom to be themselves in a land of freedom and opportunity. Emma Lazarus’s famous 1883 sonnet summed it up in her work created for the Statue of Liberty: “cries she with silent lips. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., made the following allusion to freedom in his “I have a dream” speech in August of 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation,” when he expounded with his emotional conclusion (which was borrowed from a Black spiritual): “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.” Americans have fought in so many wars beginning with the American Revolution till the recent end of our presence in Afghanistan, all for the cause of democracy and the freedom from tyrannical government, freedom from despotic control, freedom from totalitarian, authoritarian rule, or any power which steals or stifles or squelches our yearning for freedom to do it, as Frank Sinatra so curtly put it, “my way.”

After the 9/11 attack on our sovereignty, the damage and destruction to the Pentagon and World Trade Center with the death of over 3,000 American citizens, we unified, as exemplified by Americans across the country, to impress the invaders that we would never surrender our freedom.

America’s Supreme Court is constantly debating how “living” the Constitution is as a means of establishing the rules of law and order. But for me, the document will forever epitomize freedom.



Bethel Resident Dr. John R. Cleary

The 2021 Constitution Day Essay Contest Winners include Dr. John R. Cleary, 81, a former 46-year resident of Bethel, CT, now living in North Carolina. He retired in 2002, was a 38-year secondary school English teacher, served military duty as company/executive officer between 1964-1966. He is active in Bethel politics over 15 years: was Chairman of Board of Education, Chairman of Bethel Library Board of Trustees, Chairman of Bethel Republican Town Committee, among several other appointed or elected positions. Cleary has six adult children, 17 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren. He now enjoys writing essays and letters to the editor of local newspapers.


Tatum Chang

Tatum Chang, 11th grader, of Greenwich, CT


If you were to look up the definition of the Constitution of the United States, the internet is most likely to give you an answer calling it a piece of paper that outlines the structure of our government and the laws at which our nation is run. However, it is not until you look into the creation and the true past of the Constitution, that you begin to understand the true meaning of the document.

This past summer, in preparation for my AP US Government and Politics class, I was assigned to read the book A Brilliant Solution by Carol Berkin. This book focuses on the meeting of the delegates and the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787. It is because of this story that I have a whole new perspective on the governing system of the United States.

On one of the first pages, the Constitution is described as a “miracle” built by “demigods” to save the nation, our nation. Before the Constitution, the US was being governed by the Articles of Confederation. Under the AOC however, many felt the future of our nation was doomed. The Constitution was designed to correct the faults in the system that citizens all over predicted fatal to the nation. The convention, the writing of the Constitution, the roughly four months of debating, it all was done for the good of our country; there was no requirement to do this, our government was created because the delegates that we now honor and praise had the courage to step up and save America. Although everyone had a reputation they were worried about, the gathering in Philadelphia was done for the goodness of the nation, not for the independent gain of the delegates. The controversy faced when writing the document was proof of the commitment to improving the current and future United States. The delegates that gathered underwent essentially brutal conditions all the way from the Philadelphia summer weather to the need to create numerous different committees in order to compromise on issues of the system. In the end, all the risks of conflict were worth the larger goal of the Constitution — the “national existence” of America.

The other thing about the significance of the Constitution to me, is the unity I saw the country undergo because of it. For example, it was at the convention where the delegates decided on “we the people of the United States,” as it appears in the preamble. To me, the Constitution signifies not only the coming together of the newly independent states, but also arguably some of the nation’s most intelligent and influential minds. It was only when they came together and learned to compromise that they were able to collectively create the now most respected system of government in the world. Lastly, the Constitution would establish the executive office, which came to be a huge symbol of nation unity and more. 

In my opinion, the Constitution is the very best demonstration of liberty, freedom, equality, justice, and unity the world has ever seen. Overall, though it may not have originally been intended to last, the establishment of the United States Constitution would come to liberate future generations for centuries to come.



Tatum Chang of Greenwich

11th Grade, Greenwich Academy. Tatum rises to any challenge and loves sailing, boating and hockey


Logan Lindstrom

Logan Lindstrom, 11th grader, of Sweden


The U.S constitution means a lot to me. It allows me to be free and pursue a better life in our great country. It guarantees essential freedoms that to some people may seem trivial, but when you look at them closely, are crucial to maintaining freedom. Unfortunately, there has been an unprecedented attack on several of these amendments, most notably the first amendment and the second amendment, (the right to freedom of speech and the right to bear arms.) Both of these amendments are needed to maintain a free country. If you cannot have free speech the entire point of democracy is nullified. Without free discourse how can we be informed of each candidate that we are going to vote for? How can we be sure that the government isn’t lying to us? How can we have a civil debate and educate ourselves if there are not two viewpoints? As we have seen in history, countries that limit speech have never been free countries.

The same goes for the right to bear arms. The right to bear arms is an intrinsic American trait that allows us to be independent in our ability to defend ourselves and defend ourselves from the government if necessary. These amendments are two checks in the power of the government that protect American citizens and should not in any way be infringed upon. Several countries that prohibited citizens from having firearms were Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Communist China, and North Korea. None of these countries were praised for their freedom and responsible governments. In fact, these regimes have collectively murdered over 100,000,000 people. One of the founders’ greatest fears was having the United States government become too powerful, so they imposed checks and balances to curtail the power of the federal government. These checks and balances including the three branches of government and the bill of rights have succeeded for many years in allowing the United States to be the freest and most successful country ever to exist.

In conclusion, the U.S constitution means more than a lot to me. It means everything to me because it secures my freedoms and allows me to live a free and happy life. It guarantees that I will never be discriminated against, oppressed, unfairly treated, and it allows me to speak my opinions freely and defend myself. It allows me to be a strong and free American the way our founders intended Americans to be.



Logan Lindstrom of Sweden

I was born in Sweden and have lived in the U.S for 11 years. I am in 11th grade. I attended GCDS for my first two years of high school, and am currently homeschooling. I like to sail, play basketball, read, and play video games.


Honorable Mentions

Eva Begonja, Greenwich, 4th grade

Stephen Stadtmiller, Greenwich resident


State Representative Kimberly Fiorello

State Representative Kimberly Fiorello

State Representative Kimberly Fiorello was sworn in for her first term in office on January 6, 2021. She proudly represents the 149th Connecticut General Assembly District, which encompasses parts of Greenwich and Stamford.

This session, Kimberly will serve on the following committees:

Kimberly’s priorities for the 2021 legislative session in her committees include:

(1) Equitable funding of all public schools to improve educational choices for all parents in Connecticut

(2)  Fixing police accountability legislation passed in 2020 that puts officers and local communities at risk

(3)  Challenging any legislation that could potentially threatened local zoning decisions

And, in overall for the session, to:

(4) Advocate for tax reform and regulatory reform to support our local CT-based businesses and entrepreneurs

Kimberly was born in Seoul, South Korea, and grew up in Reston, Virginia. Her dad worked at the U.S. Department of Defense and her mom owned a coffee shop. She attended the United States Military Academy at West Point before transferring to Harvard College where she earned her degree in Economics.

Her first job was at Salomon Brothers; her most exciting job was as a reporter in Hong Kong for the Wall Street Journal; her hardest job was in the kitchen at Wallse restaurant in NYC; and her most rewarding job is being a wife and mom.

Kimberly is an active member of her community. She was elected to two terms on the Greenwich Representative Town Meeting from District 7, and she is a co-founder of the Charter Oak Leadership Program — a Connecticut-based non-profit that advances the core principles of our country and free market enterprise. Kimberly enjoys volunteering on the Collections Committee of the Greenwich Historical Society and at her church, Grace Church of Greenwich.

Kimberly resides in Greenwich with her husband, Jon, and their four children, two dogs, and four pet hens, who daily provide delicious eggs for breakfast!