Defining Independence

INDEPENDENCE is found in the moments that are so deeply personal, so suffocating in their bigness, they are impossible to articulate to another person. Like any dream, from the outside the act of living it seems small, too simple to be significant. § Right now a woman is making her children sandwiches. A man is cutting tomatoes for his guests. A girl is teaching children to dance. A man is grooming the horses, is reciting his lessons, is honoring his ancestors. A father is thinking of his grandparents. One woman is teaching peace, another is keeping it. A singer is sharing her joy. § These are American dreams, found, chased, lost, found again in the depths of words memorized by schoolchildren who will bring their meanings forward. A voice on the air. An athlete. § Two women are conspiring in a bar. Blues, bourbon and beer inspire their whispering. § One environmentalist and one congressman. The winemakers ready their harvest. § Sounds of history fill the barbeque restaurant in the heart of a small village. In between bad jokes, the two women are musing on America, Independence, Sacrifice, Family. They are moved. A second round is ordered. There are questions. More jokes. Private stories. Determination thickens—a lens is wiped, pen lifted, they enter the street armed with questions: What does it mean to be American? How do you define Independence? How is it realized? Can it be sacrificed? How? Why? Who establishes independence? Society? Media? School? Government? Parents? How can you harmonize INDEPENDENCE?

Photos: Elizabeth Sagarin
Unless noted

Special thanks for their participation in the compilation of this feature: Bobbique (for the inspiration), Epoch5, Bill Corbett, Terrie Sultan, Chris Nuzzi, Zimmerman/Edelson,

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imageMichael J. Dowling // President & CEO North Shore-LIJ Health System

To me, independence is much more than freedom. In my mind, independence is closely associated with integrity and being secure in the knowledge that you’ve tried to achieve things in life the right way and for the right reasons. Many of us certainly want to achieve financial independence. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you earned it and did not prosper off of other people’s misfortunes. It’s important to give back and feel good about your own contributions to society—that generates a feeling of personal independence.

In the true sense of the word, I realized my independence out of necessity rather than choice. As a poor kid growing up in Ireland, I had to leave home early—first to work in steel factories outside London and at age 17, to the US where I worked a variety of jobs including the docks on the west side of Manhattan. I was able to send money home and also save enough money so I could go to college. I learned early on that independence also means working hard and relying on yourself to get by in life.

To some extent, all of us involved in relationships—whether it’s a spouse or a close business associate—have to sacrifice some of our independence at some point. If you’re secure or confident enough in your relationships, you don’t mind making such an accommodation. In management, for instance, you can sometimes gain more control by delegating and giving up some independence. It’s a matter of changing your mindset so the focus is on “we” instead “me.”

None of us live in a vacuum. We’re all affected by outside influences, particularly in this digital age where information is disseminated so rapidly. The key to maintaining one’s independence is keeping an open mind and not being led astray by a single point of view. Raising children is a good analogy. Most of us want our kids to start gaining more independence as they grow older, but at the same time, we’re concerned about them hanging out with friends or acquaintances who are a bad influence. The same logic applies. It’s important to be exposed to different people and different viewpoints, but you need to be confident enough to make your own educated decisions.

Be confident in yourself, be secure in yourself and take pride in yourself. Take what works for you and discard what doesn’t. You have to be able to sift through the influences in your life, but not succumb to those that offer immediate gratification. It’s important to keep a long-term perspective.

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Abba Abitabilo
Age: 33
Occupation: Chef
Ethnicity: Caucasian
Resides: Massapequa
Being American: Living a life of freedom.

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Hon. Alfonse M. D’Amato // Managing Director, Park Strategies, LLC

Theoretically, I’d say independence is having a distinguished, identifiable character that is capable of accepting responsibility. More directly and literally, independence means being able to stand on your own two feet and not needing the financial support of anyone else.

I felt the greatest sense of independence when I was elected as the first Italian-American US Senator. It was my most profound achievement and the time when I felt most free of the stereotypes that restricted Italian-Americans for decades.

No one should ever have to sacrifice their independence. Hard work is required to achieve independence; if you sacrifice it, not only are you undervaluing it, but you may be compromising some of the morals and values that helped you to attain it.

It is the responsibility of each individual to develop his or her own identity. When this is accomplished, they have achieved independence.

How do we harmonize varied concepts of independence? Why should we? It’s what makes the world go ‘round!

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imageDarrel Darsan
Age: 36
Occupation: Mechanic/Technician
Ethnicity: West Indian, Trinidad
Place of Residence: Long Island
“To me being American means having countless opportunities and the ability to love a free life.”

Nichole Manger
Age: 33
Occupation: Probation Officer
Ethnicity: American
Place of Residence: Long Island
“To me being American means having the right to live the life I chose.”

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Ricky Soldinger
Occupation: 10 years with Winters Bros. Recycling as a garbage man.
Resides: Bay Shore
“Work hard, be free, raise a wholesome Long Island family.”

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Joann Soltan
Age: 33
Occupation: Probation Officer
Ethnicity: Hispanic (My Mom is from Peru and my Dad is of German decent)
Place of Residence: Suffolk County
What being American means to you: “American” can be described in many ways, but most importantly to me it means love, pride and appreciation for this great nation. Having family that currently reside in a third world country (Peru), I feel extremely fortunate to be a citizen of the Unites States of America, and I appreciate it’s diverse culture and the opportunities that are afforded to me.”

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imageGordian Raacke // Executive Director, Renewable Energy Long Island (RELI)

Wikipedia defines independence as self-government of a nation by its residents, or more generally as “not being controlled by another power.” I believe that it is important to be independent of control by other powers while realizing that we only exist because of the interdependence of all. It may be easier to grasp the concept of independence than to understand the intricate interconnectedness of all life on this planet, but to survive, we need to learn quickly how our actions affect everything else on earth.

In trying to reduce my own dependence on fossil fuel, I made our home more energy efficient and installed solar panels. I get a nice taste of independence every time I open my LIPA bill and it shows that we generated all the electricity we needed without relying on polluting and imported fossil fuels.

I got married.

All sorts of forces outside of our control shape how dependent, interdependent and independent we are or feel, but our personal character and everyday actions make a big difference.

Realizing that we are part of the Earth and a social species. We cannot exist without nature and other human beings around.

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Marco Borghese // Manager, Castello di Borghese Vineyard

Ann Marie Borghese // Owner, Castello di Borghese Vineyard

Ann Marie Borghese: We both say freedom.
Marco Borghese: And hope.

AMB: I was in kindergarten. I had a really rough teacher and I was challenged by her many times. I knew what I wanted and I was very clear on what I thought was not correct on her part. There were many lines drawn in the sand that year. My parents were liberal and they agreed with me. If I could prove my point, I usually got what I wanted at home. I was not spoiled but was made to think. Thinking is freedom to do what you want. We both agree—free to think, free to plan, free to hope to succeed. It is a way of thinking. Positive energy brings positive results

MB: It’s an attitude. If you think you can do it, you can. If you think positive, even if things are not that good, you can achieve something.

AMB & MB: We both agree that sacrifices were and are made in regard to our children. When our family started, our focus changed from us as a couple to the complexity a family. This is more of a desired change than loss of independence but still our plans changed due to babies.

AMB: The vineyard was Marco’s dream and I went along. I was very happy in my city life. My children were well placed in good schools, I had a beautiful jewelry store in a prominent location, I had a social life and all things were as I wanted them. Marco wanted a lifestyle change. He grew up on a self-sustaining farm outside of Florence in Italy and liked the country style of living. A quiet, slow paced, internal life. In other words, to live the Italian noble life. I had never slept in the country in my life and was not as charmed as he was about life on a vineyard. We left our city life to try to do something neither one of us had done professionally before. Marco was more interested in vineyard life and I found it very difficult to acclimate. With focused minds, self assurance and listening to our internal compasses, we found our larger purpose at the vineyard and have been making award-winning wine almost from the start. I attribute this to mutual respect as a couple working together and having been married a long time, going on 25 years. Peaceful interaction has benefited each of us, especially me as I have grown to passionately love being at the vineyard. I miss the city life so I have chosen to do the city farm markets. I get to enjoy both sides of the life just like my property, which is on both ends of the Long Island Railroad!

MB: Your conscience.

AMB: Marco is a very independent man. He came to this country on his own in his twenties and made his own way in life. He is a very quiet man and relies on his inner compass to guide him. I feel to some extent media, school, government and parents all play a part in introducing controlling factors into your life. If you let it control you, you do not become who you need to be. I know with a clear head and an open heart you can achieve anything.

MB: Being good to all people. Common sense and having a conscience.
AMB: The golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Learn it young and live by it. I also value common sense. Nothing frustrates me more than some one who can’t see what needs to be done or not doing the right thing.

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imageCongressman Steve Israel // US Representative for NY’s 2nd District

As a student of history, I believe our national character is best defined by the opening words of the Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

My grandparents immigrated to the United States from Russia. They came through Ellis Island, settled in New York, and hope they would provide a good life for their children. Today above my desk I still have their original immigration papers. I can’t imagine what they would think if they knew their photos and immigration papers were hanging on their grandson’s, a Congressman’s, wall in the United States Capitol.

As every parent knows, good parenting requires that you sometimes sacrifice your own independence to do what’s right for your kids.

We all establish our independence independently. For me, it was both earned through years of hard work and learned from my parents, my grandparents and the many teachers I had throughout the years.

That is exactly what Congress is about—seeking to bridge differences, develop consensus, and move our nation forward based on the common good.

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Paris Parrish aka Rabbit
Age: 19
Occupation: I go to school and i work at a horse stable.
Ethnicity: I’m Black and NativE American
Place of Residence: Brooklyn
“To be an American it means to be a person of good values, goals and morals. Also that I know that being an American I can do anything I want and become anything I wish to become.”

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Rima Khoury
Occupation: Owner of Soleil Fitness in Selden where she teaches bellydancing.
Born in Sierra Leone, Africa but spent her childhood between there and Lebanon until she moved to the Unites States 14 years ago
“With passion and determination comes great success.”

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Jean Lap
Age: 88
Occupation: Yoga Instructor@ St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Sayville
Resides: Bayport
What being American means to her: “I feel to have lived this long I have been fortunate to have good health, a loving family with 8 children, loving friends and to have been lucky to grow up in a country where there is freedom and wonderful opportunities to pursue one’s dreams. I pray that I am able to give back to my family, church and country one quarter of that which I have received.”

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Rorie Kelly // Independent Musician

I think independence means something different to each person. That’s part of what independence is. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is a pretty good baseline though, and I think, sadly, that the availability of those things is still severely limited depending on factors like race, sex, class, sexuality, etc. As a musician, I really believe that independence means the freedom to pursue your artistic dreams. I’ve had opportunities that would theoretically give me a chance to “make it big” if I changed myself and my music juuuuuust enough. And frankly, I feel like those things are poison to someone who is passionate about art, and the odds of “making it big” are not that great either way. I’d rather be smalltime and honest.

It’s been a little hard for me to fully “realize” my independence, both as an artist and as a person, because frankly, money gets in the way. When you’re spending the majority of your waking hours doing something you’d rather not be doing just to pay the bills that hopefully affords you a certain level of comfort, but I wouldn’t classify it as true independence. I guess for me, the moments that I felt most independent were the times I walked away from doing something I didn’t believe in, despite pressure to the contrary. It’s a really good feeling to actually stand face to face with a chance to “sell out”—and walk away. You don’t know that about yourself, really, until you actually do it.

I feel like a whole lot of people on Long Island are sacrificing their independence to some degree by living in less-than-ideal living situations because it’s what we can afford. Whether it’s moving back in with the folks (or not even being able to move out in the first place) or living with a roommate, I think the housing market in New York has really forced a lot of residents to make unpleasant choices. Real estate prices are down right now—yet most people I know still can’t afford to own or even rent a home on their own. I think part of the reason the bottom fell out of that market is because prices rose to an unsustainable—and unfair—level. Independence in that sense not something that’s available to everyone—only the people who can afford it.

To some extent, everyone has to step up to the plate and establish independence for themselves. But I do think it can be impacted hugely by one’s environment. My mom is a really smart, independent woman, and a feminist. When I was growing up, she was like my superhero. My dad is also really intelligent, and taught me by example to be open-minded and unselfish. Being raised to question the norm, and to respect myself and accept others, was a lucky break for me in terms of forming my own independence.

I am starting to think that it’s all about talking. “Agree to disagree” doesn’t necessarily cover it. I am a strong believer in loudly voicing one’s opinions—it comes back around to that concept that you only have freedom insofar as it does not restrict the freedom of another. I think we all have to be vigilant of people overtaking other people’s freedoms with their own concept of freedom—and speak up when we see it happen.

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Jim Faith
Promoter,
GM Brookhaven Amphitheatre
Founding Vice Chair, LI Music Hall of Fame

Independence Defined:
Simply put: The ability to make decisions on my own behalf, without restraint. Pete Seeger said: “Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom. Self-reliance is the only road to true freedom, and being one’s own person is its ultimate reward.” I agree!

Realization of your own independence:
Traveling across the country in my teens and seeing the water fountains was just shocking to me, and I was confronted with the realization that not all of us in this country have the same freedoms.

Independence sacrificed:
During my divorce I was only allowed to see my daughters during the court mandated dates and times. For the first time, I was now not free to see my kids whenever I wanted. I eventually went to court, fought for custody and won.

Establishing individual’s independence:
Assuming that the individual “wants” autonomy, I believe it’s the individual, and that each person develops his own level of independence uniquely. My feeling is that parents are the first to effect an individual’s approach to self-sufficiency, followed by school, society and media. Of course government may very well have a huge effect, especially if it’s a repressive government.

The key to harmonizing varied concepts of independence:
If we are speaking about protecting our freedoms while negotiating our way through work, play, participating in government, community affairs etc., I think it starts with knowing what makes the individual truly happy. Then being able to integrate my goal of being self reliant into the chaos that comes with being my own boss.

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imageBonnie Grice
Host/Executive Producer “In the Morning” “The Song is You”
WLIU 88.3fm
Long Island’s Public Radio

Bonnie Grice defines independence as “the only way to live.”

She realized her independence in a tangible way “when as a young girl I stood my ground with my father.”

Bonnie didn’t “have” to sacrifice independence, she “chose” to. “For personal and professional reasons, because I thought it was the right thing to do.”

“No one can establish your independence but you.”

The key to harmonizing varied concepts of independence is: “Belief in yourself.”

Hazel Dukes // President NAACP New York State Conference

I define independence as people who can think for themselves, look at problems and find solutions as independent thinkers. Leave the “I” and “me” out. You take an independent thought about a problem and when people see your solution, they know it’s not influenced by political wind or environment, but is a solution that can benefit more than just yourself. When you present it, present it in such a way that independent thinking comes through but profound enough to engage other people.

My parents prepared me by teaching me that I had to finish school so I would be ready to go out and be a part of the real world, so I was prepared to make decisions about life. In preparation for the transition from school to the real world, I began to find I could do things on my own.

As a parent, you have to make some decisions regarding other people in your life, so they have to be included in your thoughts. Not giving up independence completely, but being inclusive. Also in the workplace, even if you become self-employed, you have to be able to collaborate with other people. You may go in with independent thinking but when you sit with people, you must compromise to achieve your goals. It’s important to know how to integrate your thoughts to work within given situations. In a sense you do sacrifice your independence if you’re dealing with a financial planner for instance or others in workplace who may have more experience on a subject. Always be willing to incorporate other ideas and be inclusive.

Each person has to do establish their own independence. Society can’t do it for you. You have to be committed to whatever it is to be independent, every time you meet someone your mind or direction can change.

The key to harmonizing varied concepts of independence is being able to listen. And to negotiate.

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Renee Collazo (Bgirl Smiles)
Age: 28
Place of Residence: East Islip
Occupation: Breakdance Instructor
What being American means to you? “I’m honored to be born with the freedom to choose how I want to express and inspire the knowledge I’ve understood over the years for my passion of hip hop culture, both here and worldwide.”

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Michael Feile
Hometown: Port Jefferson
Occupation: Bartender and Student
Ethnicity: Chinese and German
“America gives us, all of us, the chance to experience anything as well as strive to become whatever we apply ourselves to. That is what America means to me.”

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imageHazel Dukes // President NAACP New York State Conference

I define independence as people who can think for themselves, look at problems and find solutions as independent thinkers. Leave the “I” and “me” out. You take an independent thought about a problem and when people see your solution, they know it’s not influenced by political wind or environment, but is a solution that can benefit more than just yourself. When you present it, present it in such a way that independent thinking comes through but profound enough to engage other people.

My parents prepared me by teaching me that I had to finish school so I would be ready to go out and be a part of the real world, so I was prepared to make decisions about life. In preparation for the transition from school to the real world, I began to find I could do things on my own.

As a parent, you have to make some decisions regarding other people in your life, so they have to be included in your thoughts. Not giving up independence completely, but being inclusive. Also in the workplace, even if you become self-employed, you have to be able to collaborate with other people. You may go in with independent thinking but when you sit with people, you must compromise to achieve your goals. It’s important to know how to integrate your thoughts to work within given situations. In a sense you do sacrifice your independence if you’re dealing with a financial planner for instance or others in workplace who may have more experience on a subject. Always be willing to incorporate other ideas and be inclusive.

Each person has to do establish their own independence. Society can’t do it for you. You have to be committed to whatever it is to be independent, every time you meet someone your mind or direction can change.

The key to harmonizing varied concepts of independence is being able to listen. And to negotiate.

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imageJanine Tinsley-Roe
Age: 49
Occupation: Natvie American Advocate and Consultant for Indian Affairs
Ethnicity: Shinnecock and Unkechaug Tribes
Place of Residence: Bellport Village
“It means being proud that I am an original descendent of this land, the land that so many come to and try to possess and call their own. My homeland provides hope, peace and joy for so many.”

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Paul J. Rodriguez
Age: 41
Occupation: Children’s Book Author/Illustrator
Ethnicity: Puerto Rican
Place of Residence: Ronkonkoma
“Being American means having amazing freedoms and opportunities. It also means living in a way that honors the ideals and principals that America was founded on. It enables to do a great deal asa global citizen.”

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imageMarty Lyons // Senior Vice President Operation, Landtek Group, Inc. and Founder of the Marty Lyons Foundation

For me, independence is the freedom to pursue your dreams. This starts at an early age and allows you, after hard work and family support, to someday achieve them. Being independent is based on making the right choices, which comes from having a foundation that was established through family and faith. We are only free to make our own decisions because of the sacrifices others have made for us.

I come from a family of seven. Our family, particularly my parents, sacrificed for all of us. Individuals need to be prepared to become independent people of their own and this comes from a proper education and being instilled with an understanding of the values of life. For me, going to college, entering the NFL and getting married were all points where I realized my independence. This is all part of the journey of life.

The members of our country’s military and their families are to be thanked for their sacrifices. Giving one’s life for their country and their fellow Americans must never be forgotten. These individuals took great pride and put on the uniform so that we can be free. Too often we take this for granted and don’t stop to think about what they have done. Today those serving in the military, most by choice, go to war to protect our independence. These are the people I think about when I think of independence and what we have to be thankful for.

I am fortunate that I have not really had to sacrifice my independence in the way that others have had to do in military service. My family has a strong military tradition; my brother is a West Point graduate, and both my father and mother served in the United State Navy.

I believe independence is fostered by parents. What parents establish leads to a chain reaction and each person is a mere reflection of what our parents, families and others teach us. In addition, religion and faith instill in us values that allow us to become what we want to be. There are many obstacles outside that we see every day. For me, working with families and children through the Marty Lyons Foundation shows me how important family and faith are. Working to grant wishes for terminally ill children puts life and individual needs into perspective. Working with kids, I see first-hand what truly impacts lives and what is really important in life. To make it through unbelievably difficult and trying times, people need to have a strong foundation and be able to count on each other. There may not be just one answer to this. Each person has to find his or her own way, and to do so need to have faith and the support of family and friends.

In life people must have commitment, trust and communication. The word commitment has three meanings to me: When you make a promise you keep it; when you don’t have time, you find time; if someone needs to talk, you need to listen and ask for nothing in return.

When you are around veterans, you really feel and are made aware of the real value and importance of independence both as an American and as an individual. Meeting these extraordinary people and listening to the stories of those who have risked all and some who have given all, makes you aware of the fact that they have sacrificed for all of us. Whether it is Memorial Day or Independence Day it is important to be very thankful to those who have sacrificed so much, so that we as a nation can be free and each of us can have the ability to pursue our own dreams.

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The Future of Independence
Ms. Vanessa Holder’s Davison Avenue Elementary School Kindergarten class and what they want to be when they grow up:
Top Left to Right: Gianna McKeever, 6, Veterinarian. Jahzeel Caban,5, Robotic Scientist. Joseph Carcamo,6, U.S. Military. Joshua Boone, 6, NYPD. Jacqueline Cruz, 5, Chef. Andre McKenzie, 5, Physical Therapist. Melannie Figueroa, 6, Prthopedic Doctor. Peter Aglio, 5, Police Officer. Carson Cosenza, 6, Princess or a Writer. Nida Ajmal, 5, Brain Surgeon. Caitlin Kennedy, 5, Elementary School Teacher. Fatima Mancia Perez, 5, Teacher. Brndon Rice, 5, Pirate or a Police Officer. Miles Tyson, 6, Scientist.