Teen's Constitution speech to highlight Naperville Memorial Day ceremony
After a morning of visiting late military members' graves and marching in a parade, veterans in Naperville will converge on Central Park for a speech about the nation's main governing document.
A 16-year-old runner-up in a national oratorical contest will share his thoughts on the Constitution and the balances of power it provides during a ceremony beginning at 12:15 p.m. Monday, May 25.
"I realized that Memorial Day, in particular, is a great time to showcase the Constitution and the principles that it stands for, protecting all of our rights as American citizens," said 16-year-old Rowan Macwan of Naperville, a home-schooled student who placed second in the American Legion National Oratorical Scholarship Contest last month in Indianapolis.
"Those who have died in battle and who have served in the military, it's the exact same principles that they fight for."
Rowan represented Naperville American Legion Post 43 when he earned a $16,000 scholarship for his second-place finish for his oration titled "The Flame of Our Liberty."
Jim Vahle, a Post 43 member, said the American pride in Rowan's presentation makes it a perfect message for a day meant to thank and honor military members who have given their lives in service.
"We think it's appropriate because it's patriotic," Vahle said about Rowan's speech, which lasts between eight and 10 minutes. "People tend to think of Memorial Day as it's for the veterans and it's a patriotic holiday."
Rowan said he's been keeping his oration fresh in his mind as he prepares for Monday's ceremony in front of what he's told will be a large crowd in the park at 104 E. Benton Ave. In "The Flame of Our Liberty," Rowan says Americans must believe in the values of the Constitution so it can protect citizens against tyranny.
"If we believe it and continue to give it fuel, the blessings of liberty will endure and the Constitution will light America for years to come," he says in the speech.
When preparing his message for the American Legion contest, in which his older brother and sister previously had competed, Rowan said he was drawn to the way the Constitution balances power -- not just between the executive, legislative and judicial branches, but also between the people and government at the federal, state and local levels.
While federal laws supersede all others, they're based on protecting the rights and respecting the consent of the people, which was "revolutionary" at the time the Constitution was written, Rowan said.
Rowan's speech will be the main component of the ceremony in Central Park, aside from a patriotic performance by the Naperville Municipal Band. Lee Lindbergh, American Legion Post 43 commander, and Bob Bronson, Judd Kendall VFW Post 3783 commander, also are expected to share brief reflections on the meaning of Memorial Day.
Before the ceremony, Naperville's Memorial Day parade is set to step off at 10:30 a.m. at Jackson Avenue and Ewing Street with 66 units, including veterans organizations, marching bands, Scout troops, school groups and service clubs.
The grand marshal is former Mayor George Pradel, the parade marshal is Chuck Biegel and the officer of the day is Bob Owensby. All three men being honored with spots at the head of the parade are Marine veterans.
Heading east on Jackson Avenue, the parade will turn north on Washington Street, then east on Benton Avenue to its conclusion at Court Place.
Veterans groups also are conducting short ceremonies at the Cmdr. Dan Shanower Sept. 11 Memorial at 8 a.m., Veterans Park at 8:30 a.m., Burlington Park at 8:50 a.m., St. Peter and Paul cemetery at 9:15 a.m. and Naperville Cemetery at 10 a.m.
If you goWhat: Naperville Memorial Day Parade and ceremony
When: Parade begins at 10:30 a.m.; ceremony begins 12:15 p.m.
Where: Parade steps off heading east on Jackson Avenue at Ewing Street; turns north on Washington Street; heads east on Benton Avenue and ends at Court Place; ceremony is in Central Park at Benton and Court
Details: Parade includes 66 units; ceremony includes keynote speech by Rowan Macwan, a 16-year-old home-schooled student who placed second in the American Legion's National Oratorical Scholarship Contest