Wausa students write ‘Voice of Democracy’ papers

WAUSA — Each year Wausa’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #5824 and Auxiliary, sponsor the Voice of Democracy contest with the theme set by the national organization. The winner of the local contest will be entered in the district contest. State winners have a chance for the national prize of a $30,000 scholarship. Wausa Schools teacher, Kyle Stevens, coordinated the contest with Wausa High students.

Tyler Baue’s audio-essay entry on the theme “Is This the Country the Founders Envisioned?” won first place this year and was featured at the Veterans Day program at the Wausa school gym Wednesday morning, Nov. 11.

Tyler Baue:

“Is America today what the founders envisioned? When I heard this question, the only word that came to my mind was hope. I personally believe that America is not what the founders envisioned, but rather a work in progress from the day we started. We as a society hope for a brighter and more opportunistic future every day.

Along with us, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and even Benjamin Franklin also thought this in 1776 when they began to share ideas for one of the most sacred documents in American History: the Declaration of Independence.

When I hear about the Declaration of Independence, I not only think about the desire for freedom against British rule, but also written evidence of Enlightenment ideas about human nature, rights to American citizens and the freedoms that come along with living in this country. The founders hoped for a strong and connected country.

Luckily, we are beyond blessed to have veterans who serve and protect these Enlightenment ideas for us, so we are able to continuously grow and hope for change every day, here in the United States of America.

The “American Dream”: America has never been perfect or what the founders envisioned. Thomas Jefferson struggled to come up with his own ideas for what America would become. Although he had hopes. Jefferson hoped that all men would be created equal, that American citizens would be granted by their Creator unalienable rights, and that among those rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Unfortunately, not everyone at the time was guaranteed these hopes. Slavery had been rising to its eventual apex, and women had to undergo little to no rights. Is it hypocritical for Jefferson to say this? No. In his original draft, Jefferson had mentioned women’s rights and was also a huge opponent of slavery, but was told to remove those ideas in the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.

Although rejected, he was hopeful of a future where women would be able to vote, and that the color of your skin did not determine if you were human or not. The hope for an “American Dream” was just a dream, but with the help of veterans, became a reality.

Our Veterans: Thanks to our veterans, I have one of the greatest abilities known to man: the ability to speak up and to share my own ideas. The freedom to even write this paper and to share my own ideas is because of these men and women who fight for my rights and abilities to share my opinions. Without the strength and dedication of these veterans, I would most likely not be sharing my thoughts with you.

I want to point out one prominent feature about these veterans: service. Because of their service, I am able to share my beliefs. Because of their service, I am able to say that I am free. Because of their service, we grow. We change; we create strong people who make stronger ideas, which is what makes America what it is. It’s an idea or a hope, where every day we create change and share ideas without the fear of not being heard or not being seen.

I believe veterans are not thanked enough for their service because there aren’t enough words to show our gratitude and thankfulness. So, truly, thank you for defending not only my right to share my ideas and to listen to others, but to make a stronger country for us all to change and hope for a better future.

Testing Our Hopes: Unfortunately, America’s hopes have been put to the test. Discrimination against African Americans has raged in the streets, and political parties have become so toxic. It is so hard to stay positive in a time where sharing ideas can result in harassment or judgment. But I do hope that we can come together, listen, and fix these problems.

Although we cannot blame each other for this. It is up to us to create change. It is up to us to take a stance. It is up to us to realize, just as Thomas Jefferson wrote, that all humans are created equal under their Creator and should be granted their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Without our veterans, I believe America today would not be able to test these hopes. Their service defends our rights as Americans to come together and openly fix these problems so, one day, a hope for equality and freedom isn’t a hope, but rather a realty.

Founders Vision: When I heard the question “Is America today what the founders envisioned?”, the only word that came to my mind was hope. Hope for a better future and hope for a stronger and more connected nation. America today is not what the founders envisioned. Thomas Jefferson didn’t know what America would look like, but he hoped for a prosperous land where all people can share ideas and connect with each other.

I hope that, one day, we see that we are just - One Nation, under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All.”

Placing second was Ali Lundberg. Excerpts from her entry follow:

“Our American system of government is commonly called an experiment for good reason; nothing like it existed before the Revolution. Government recognizing the rights of man not as privilege but as inherited is the minority position looking throughout all history. These rights include the freedom of speech, right to bear arms and freedom of the press.

After 233 years, these philosophies that the Founding Fathers laid down are still prevalent to our nation today. However, is this the America the founders envisioned?

It is written into the Constitution that we are trying to form a “More perfect Union,” which implies a constant work in progress. America is an inherently fluid system, and I don’t think a changing America implies the process of a different America. Citizens possessed of Republican virtue would act and change things within our system out of love, not hate ... Veterans stand as the minority of the population willing to stand up for change in our system ... They made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that we can disagree, accept each other, and, hopefully, unite on common ideals ...”

Here are a few excerpts from other students who had their own thoughts on the topic:

“The Declaration of Independence, one of the most sacred documents in American history, contains the ideals or goals of our nation. It states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” That is what the Founding Fathers envisioned. But it was anything but that. At the time, we had slavery, and women were treated as inferiors. It already wasn’t the US they envisioned.

Over the years we have abolished slavery, gave women equal rights, and are able to have our own opinions ... In a way we have created a US the Founders envisioned; however, in many other ways we have failed.

America is a melting pot of cultures, with different ways of living and different beliefs. That is what makes America so beautiful. This also ties into the question given to me, by showing us that America is constantly changing and growing in different ways with different people. There is no way that the idea of America in 1760 is how it would be today.

We can think of what our future is going to look like, but can never be sure because it is constantly being changed and fixed in order for America as a whole to continue to grow and become a better place for everyone in it to live ...”

“The Founding Fathers all had different beliefs and ideas for our country but they came together to write the Constitution. I believe that we have lost the ability to come together despite our differences.

In George Washington’s farewell address, he stressed the importance of not focusing on political parties. He worried that it would create division.

I would argue that we have let political parties create division among us. It seems like in recent times we, as a people, are polarized by our beliefs. It is hard to ignore the division in the world, but real progress begins when people listen to one another ...”

“We live in an information age, and because of this, information spreads like wildfire. If we hope to repair relations, the thing we want the least, is misinformation about each other, turning us against each other.

Veterans fought for the right of freedom of speech, but if we ridicule those of different beliefs, then we are disrespecting the veterans that made the ultimate sacrifice for us. If we can learn to treat each other with dignity and respect, I believe we can make an America that the founding fathers would have wanted ...”

“Is this the country the founding fathers envisioned? No, it’s not. Though we may have gotten better at some things, some crises are still really bad and we need to work on how we treat people and this country, because this place is like no other ...”

“I believe that this is not the America our Founding Fathers envisioned. When they left our constitution open-ended and open for change, they knew what they were doing. They knew that we would face difficult choices and decisions for the betterment of our ever-changing world. But as long as we protect those initial liberties and freedoms they gave us, I think they would at least be proud of how hard we’re trying and how successful we have grown to be over the past 224 years….”

“The United States of America, the improbable experiment. The experiment that has lasted for centuries. The experiment of freedom. The founders gave everyone the freedom to make their own decisions which was all but unheard of at the time. They envisioned a society full of political intercourse. People free to make their own decisions with a government that answered to them, not itself.

Foreign affairs have become a big deal in today’s America, but what would the founders have to say about our involvement in the global community? I like to think that George Washington would have adjusted his opinion through time much as Americans did . . . after seeing what happened with WWI and WWII. I believe Washington would be filled with pride watching the United States servicemen and women, of all wars, fighting for something bigger than themselves.

America was founded on the principle of freedom. Though the founders in 1776 could not come to a consensus on what America would look like, I think that they would be mighty proud of how she turned out today: the home of the free because of the brave ...”

“When the delegates met at the Constitutional Convention, they were met with a very daunting task: to form a government that would financially and economically support a new and growing country ... When the Constitution was finally written, it was open-ended. The reality is that they expected our government to change and evolve.

The Founding Fathers knew that debate and conflict would always be a part of our society. There is one thing that the founders did not envision for this country: hate ... The founders did not envision a country filled with people so consumed with themselves they can’t listen to one another.

This may not be the country that the founders imagined, yet it can be. Disagreement is an inevitable part of the world that we live in; however, hate does not have to be. We have to be willing to listen to each other.

Much like the great men and women that served in our armed forces, each of us needs to make a commitment to our country. We need to commit to making this country something future generations can be proud of. We need to commit to practicing empathy and communicating with those who are different from us. We need to commit to respecting our fellow human beings and making American the country it can be ...”

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