On May 5 we celebrate our freedom. This year the celebration will start in Brabant, in theatre de Lievekamp in Oss. Part of that celebration is the annual 5 May lecture. This year, it will be given by Knight of the Military William Order, Lieutenant Colonel Gijs Tuinman. But Liam Spikmans (13) from Eindhoven also has a very important role. He wrote the children’s lecture this year.
Liam sits relaxed on his bed. In his hand is the table which contains his lecture. It is meant to last two minutes. That was quite a struggle. How do you explain to all the people in the theatre and at home in front of the TV what freedom means to you in two minutes?
“We take the teachers at their word, so what they say has to be right.”
“Freedom to me means a good school, with teachers who tell the truth and good media,” he says wisely. “We take the teachers at their word, so what they say must be correct. And what is in the newspaper or on TV must also be correct. Otherwise you will think things that are not true.”
These are wise words from a cheerful, smart teenager. His interest in the war and the subsequent liberation was only really awakened when he was in Normandy with his parents and brother. What he saw there made a big impression. “We saw the cliff that the Americans, the Canadians and the other liberators had to climb. With all the Germans around it. That could only mean one thing: that you would die,” says Liam. “But they did it anyway and it worked. I still find that so impressive.”
Last year Liam participated in the ‘War in my Neighborhood’ project in Eindhoven. That’s how he got to know Wies. A lady who was six years old when the war broke out. Liam takes his tablet and shows a picture of him and Wies. “Look, this is Wies. She lived at the Catharina church as a child.” Liam became a heritage bearer of Wies’s story. He has promised to continue to tell her story, even if Wies is no longer here.
“Even in a war there is hope.”
“What I learned from Wies is that there is still hope even in a war. For example, there was a sign for the bakery on the corner of her house. On it was a biscuit with jam. Wies only wanted one thing during the war. A biscuit like that. After the war, she immediately started eating it and you know how beautiful it is! Wies still eats a biscuit with jam every morning. That’s wonderful!”
Yet we are not careful enough with our freedom, says Liam. “There is still war. There are still people who are hungry and in danger. That is freedom too. Feeling safe.” That’s why he didn’t hesitate for a moment when asked who was interested in writing the children’s lecture. The National Committee for 4 and 5 May selected Liam’s entry for the Thursday event.
“Leaders of countries need to think a bit more.”
He finds it very exciting. “I actually thought it would be for the mayor or something, but now it is suddenly very important with Prime Minister Rutte and so on.” In retrospect, he is happy about it and hopes that people will listen carefully. “You know, when there is a war it is usually because two important people are arguing. That causes a lot of ordinary people problems. They just want to live their lives. Leaders of a country should think about that a bit more.”
Of course he would prefer that there was peace everywhere. “But of course that will never happen,” he says resignedly. “We should really talk about it. About freedom. And learn from it for the future.”
Translated by: Shanthi Ramani