Attention eighth-graders! Need a new video game system, or some other dream present that costs $250? Submit an essay about being a “Citizen of the World” to Citizens United in Forest Park, and you’ll have a chance to win a savings bond.

I know many of you don’t like writing and some of you may be coasting toward graduation, but all we’re talking here is 750 to 1,000 words. And, if you’re the type who waits until the last minute to do an assignment, this contest is perfect for you – the essays must be mailed by next Wednesday, April 30.

The folks at CUinFP were inspired to start this contest by the life of a man named Cyrus Eaton, who hosted a peace conference in 1957. Several world leaders attended the conference to discuss how blowing up the world with nuclear weapons might be a bad idea. Eaton was only a private citizen, like you, but he reached out to communist countries to promote friendly relations and free trade. His efforts to become a good citizen of the world earned him the Nobel Peace Prize.

The reason I mention Cyrus Eaton is that you should check him out on the Internet before starting your essay. After you read about his life, though, you’ll have to come up with your own ideas about being a responsible world citizen. If that means hosting a world peace conference here in Forest Park, it’s OK by me.

Actually, you’re more of a citizen of the world than Cyrus Eaton in the sense that every country now belongs to the global economy. That stuff you buy at Wal-Mart, for instance, is from China. When you need help with your computer, you’re calling India. If you someday have to (gulp) pay for gas, your money may go to England or Holland.

So, what you consume here in the U.S. has an effect on the rest of the world. If I were your age, I’d be concerned about the environment. I’d be worried about global climate change and I’d want to cut down on my own consumption of fuel and goods – because it’s cheaper.

Apart from improving the world physically, we need to promote friendliness between citizens of different nations. You may want to correspond with a kid from another country, or get to know a foreign student who’s visiting the U.S. Or, maybe you feel called to travel to another country as a personal ambassador – you could put the $250 toward airfare.

Being a good “Citizen of the World” also means acting responsibly here in Forest Park. So, please no more cans or wrappers on my front lawn. Mail your essay to CUinFP Award Contest, P.O. Box 233, Forest Park, Ill., 60130. I won’t be judging your essay. They were afraid I’d steal your ideas for columns.