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Editor's note: This week's Pundit of the Week focuses on the nominees in the Commentary category of the CNN iReport Awards. We chose the six thought-provoking nominees in this category from the thousands of iReports that were approved for use on CNN in 2011. You can see all of the nominees and vote for the Community Choice Award at the CNN iReport Awards website.
One of the most exciting things about CNN iReport is that it gives everyone an opportunity to speak their minds about the issues that matter to them. The nominees in the Commentary category of the Second Annual CNN iReport Awards tackled a variety of topics – some controversial, others more personal – but they all brought passion to the conversation:
Betsy Mitchell was troubled by the celebrations that followed the news that U.S. Navy Seals had killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a raid last May. Mitchell, a college student in North Carolina, said bin Laden needed to be stopped and that she wasn't sorry that he was killed, but she felt that it was wrong to celebrate anyone's death.
Her stance wasn't particularly popular and her iReport started a fiery debate. Mitchell took a lot of criticism in the comments, but she explained herself calmly. She may not have changed her critics’ minds, but her reaction led some commenters to respect hers.
In July, when President Barack Obama and House Speaker Sen. John Boehner were debating the nation's financial crisis, the producers of "Little Luis" -- an animated series about a six-year-old boy and his adopted family -- set out to poke fun at the leaders on Capitol Hill. They found plenty of comic material. In this piece, a discussion between Obama and Boehner devolves into a televised slap fight while Little Luis and his family watches at home. "I don't like this show," the Little Luis said. "You can't tell which is the good guy, or the bad guy."
C.R.Celona, one of the creators, said that he wanted to make the serious point that most people in Washington don't seem to get that Americans need help, not politics as usual.
Melissa Fazli was sad to lose her neighborhood Borders when the bookstore chain went out of business last summer. She said it had nice activities for her kids and was a good place to meet friends for coffee. Borders wasn't just a faceless corporation to her, it was part of her community.
Her video tribute added a personal perspective to the corporate bankruptcy story.
Byron Thomas, a black college student in South Carolina, sparked an interesting debate on race and symbolism when he challenged an order to take down the Confederate Battle Flag in his dorm room. Thomas said the school told him it violated their policy against racist symbols, but he said he was just showing his Southern pride.
He said he felt that the flag was not racist, and that only an ignorant person could make it racist.
Cartoonist Brixton Doyle posted this touching tribute to Apple founder Steve Jobs after his death in October.
Doyle offered his condolences to Jobs' family and friends and thanked him for the many advances that Apple's products helped create. He also pointed out that his iReport was created entirely with Mac products.
Writer and motivational speaker Omekongo Dibinga said he thought it was wrong to remove the n-word from new editions of Mark Twain's classic novels "Huckleberry Finn" and "Tom Sawyer". He reacted with anger when publishers announced they were printing a new edition of the classics, and replacing the word with “slave.”
He said that kids need to know that word's painful history, so they don't use it as a term of affection. “We have to be real about who be are; not be politically correct about our history,” he said.