Archived Story

Freedom Forum to return to Clanton in September

Published 4:55pm Friday, August 9, 2013

Not everyone can say they lived through more than 400 air raids during World War II and shook hands with Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler, but Pete McCoy can.

McCoy is the president and founder of Freedom Forums, Inc., which hosts motivational rallies for students and civic clubs throughout Alabama and the United States.

As president and founder of Freedom Forums, Inc., McCoy and his director of programming Janice Johnson will speak to ninth and 10th grade students from Chilton County schools on Tuesday, Sept. 17.

In his speeches, McCoy tells audiences about his childhood in Europe during the war.

He was born in a bomb shelter in Nazi Germany and immigrated to the U.S. in 1948 with his mother and his adoptive father, an American soldier.

He chose to become an American citizen through naturalization in 1957.

McCoy shares his memories as well as his mother’s memories, including when he shook Hitler’s hand as Hitler rode by in his convertible Mercedes during a parade in Berlin in 1942.

McCoy has no recollection of the occurrence since he was just 2 at the time, but his mother provided him a detailed account he shares with others.

“Kids are fascinated by World War II if you tell it right, especially if there is someone there who is a living specimen of the war,” McCoy said. “We have certain values we want to pass on. In my case, it is a love for freedom and love for this country and the flag. My little story shows how much I have learned as an outsider becoming an insider.”

McCoy said Johnson will speak about her life and responsibilities people have to themselves and others important to them.

“This is an awesome speaker,” McCoy said of Johnson. “It’s like show biz—you save the best for last.”

From 8:30–10:30 a.m. Sept. 17, McCoy and Johnson will not only speak to the students gathered in Chilton County High School’s auditorium, but they will also give students a chance to ask questions.

McCoy’s Freedom Forums started in 1984 and were inspired by a former Harding University professor who ran a similar program and hired McCoy to speak in Alabama.

Since then, McCoy said more than 25,000 Chilton County teens have heard Freedom Forum messages.

The program is held in the county every two years.

“In the years we’ve been doing this, we’ve spoken to 2 million kids,” McCoy said. “I never give the same speech twice. I don’t have it written down, but the themes are always there.”

McCoy is also an adjunct history professor at Auburn University Montgomery, Faulkner University, Troy University and Alabama State University.

He is the author of “Find Your Own American: A Boy’s Inspiring Journey from Nazi Germany to Freedom in America.”

McCoy lives in Wetumpka.

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