As I was watching the Today Show this morning, a young man who had just been freed from a Nicaraguan prison after being held there falsely for a year said, "You just don't know what your freedom means until you have to fight for it."

That statement really stayed with me. It reminded me of an e-mail that my friend Callie (who is in France as an exchange student) sent me just before the holidays. It shows just how spoiled we American may be sometimes. Take a look at it:

"The other day, I was reading Newsweek magazine and came across some poll data I found rather hard to believe. It must be true given the source, right?

"The Newsweek poll alleges that 67 percent of Americans are unhappy with the direction the country is headed, and 69 percent of the country is unhappy with the performance of the President. In essence, two-thirds of the citizenry just ain't happy and want a change.

"So, being the knuckle dragger I am, I started thinking, 'What are we so unhappy about?'

"Is it that we have electricity and running water 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

"Is our unhappiness the result of having air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter?

"Could it be that 95.4 percent of these unhappy folks have a job?

"Maybe it's the ability to walk into a grocery store at any time and see more food in moments than Darfur has seen in the last year?

"Maybe it is the ability to drive from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean without having to present identification papers as we move through each state?

"Or possibly the hundreds of clean and safe motels we would find along the way that can provide temporary shelter?

"I guess having thousands of restaurants with varying cuisine from around the world is just not good enough.

"Or could it be that when we wreck our car, emergency workers show up and provide services to help all and even send a helicopter to take you to the hospital?

"Perhaps you are one of the 70 percent of Americans who own a home. You may be upset with knowing that in the unfortunate case of a fire, a group of trained firefighters will appear in moments and use top notch equipment to extinguish the flames, thus saving you, your family and your belongings.

"Or if, while at home watching one of your many flat screen TVs, a burglar or prowler intrudes, an officer equipped with a gun and a bullet-proof vest will come to defend you and your family against attack or loss.

"This all in the backdrop of a neighborhood free of bombs or militias raping and pillaging the residents, neighborhoods where 90 percent of teenagers own cell phones and computers.

"How about the complete religious, social and political freedoms we enjoy that are the envy of everyone in the world?

"Maybe that is what has 67 percent of you folks unhappy.

"Fact is, we are the largest group of ungrateful, spoiled brats the world has ever seen. No wonder the world loves the US and yet, has a great disdain for its citizens.

"They see us for what we are. The most blessed people in the world who do nothing but complain about what we don't have, and what we hate about the country instead of thanking the good Lord we live here."

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I was so disappointed with the lack of a Golden Globes Awards ceremony. That is my very favorite awards show. I love the red carpet! The show itself, being pre-Oscar, is so much less format and staid, and you just never really know who is going to win what. This week, several media folks stood in front of a screen and announced the winners. That was it, thanks to the ongoing writers strike. Boring.

One of my predictions, however, came true. Javier Bardem, who plays a serial killer/assisin in No Country for Old Men, won the Best Supporting Actor Globe. He plays the creepiest man I think I have ever seen. Bardem, who is actress Penelope Cruz's real-life beau, is so good at his craft. I would have a difficult time eating dinner with him if I were her!

I am no Angelina Jolie fan, but when I saw her years ago in Girl Interrupted, I knew she deserved an award. She got one, the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Javier delivers the best performance I have seen since Jolie in that role. I am keeping my fingers crossed he wins another one when the Oscars roll around.

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Amanda Steelman isn't the only local to appear in a national magazine. Steelman, in this month's Seventeen Magazine and Teen Prom, is joined by South Cumberland Elementary educator John Atkinson. Atkinson is shown in Runner's Magazine stretching before running in the Music City Marathon. Both Steelman and Atkinson are graduates of Cumberland County High School.

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Weather permitting, elementary basketball tournament action is slated for this weekend. All county elementary schools will be vying in both boys and girls divisions for the title of Cumberland County champions.

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Speaking of basketball, the Knights of Columbus Free Throw Championship for boys and girls ages 10-14 is slated for Saturday. The contest will be at the Cumberland County Youth Center beginning at 1 p.m. Larry Davis is coordinating the event. Call him at 788-5380 for more information.

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Congratulations to Stone Memorial High School's Lady Panther basketball coach. Coach Tim Smith was feted in front of the Panthers crowd for winning his 100th ball game. Coach Smith was previously at Cumberland County High School and Homestead Elementary.

He was presented with a plaque from SMHS Principal Janet Brooker and Athletic Director Scott Maddox.

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Schools are out Monday, Jan. 21, for Martin Luther King Day, giving students and teachers a long weekend. If you would like to join in an international celebration of diversity, drop by Martin Elementary School from noon to 2 p.m. on Monday. Twelve cultures will be represented in the "Hold Fast to the Dream" celebration. The event will also include a volunteer fair.

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