Pam Dudding Contributing writer
The National VFW website states, “Working alongside America’s youth and instilling a sense of patriotism has always been — and will always be — a VFW priority.”
There are two annual Veterans of Foreign Wars writing contests. The Voice of Democracy is for high school students, grades nine through twelve. Their writing is to be an audio-essay and this year’s theme posed the question: “Is This the Country the Founders Envisioned?”
Each state winner competes for the top national $30,000 scholarship prize. More than 51,000 individuals competed last year.
The Craig Valley local VFW Post 4491 asked a teacher, who isn’t from Craig County, to judge their student’s submissions.
Ethan Martin won first place. His response to the question asked was as follows:
“To have a dream is nothing unusual; But to have a vision, that is a gift.
“America’s Founding Fathers had a vision – a vision of an uncharted, untamed land, full of endless possibilities. A land where individuals are free to worship without interference from king, tyrant or despot. Such was the prospect in the early 1600s. Men, women and children led by John Winthrop Boarded the Arbella bound for Massachusetts in the New World. After approximately nine horrific weeks at sea, Winthrop encouraged his companions with a sermon regarding the model of Christian charity and their role within this vision of a New World.”
Martin continued, “Beloved, there is now set before us life and death, good and evil, in that we are commanded this day to love the Lord our God, and to love one another, to walk in his ways and to keep his Commandments… that the Lord our God may bless us in the land wither we go… But if our hearts shall turn away, so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced, and worship other gods, our pleasure and profits, and serve them; it is propounded unto us this day, we shall surely perish out of the good land wither we pass over this vast sea to possess it. Therefore, let us choose life, that we and our seed may live.”
America’s Founding Fathers had a vision – a vision of an independent people in a land full of new opportunities. Seventeen seventy-six dawned as an unprecedented era in the New World. No longer were 13 colonies of Great Britain entities unto themselves; they were united in purpose and direction, declaring, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
Proclaiming themselves “free”, the Fathers ushered in a Revolution that would serve to inspire other countries for hundreds of years to come.
America’s Founding Fathers had another vision – a vision of a united people in a land full of vitality and bold, new frontiers. A land where individuals were not afraid to experiment with a never-before-attempted form of government, whereby the power rests with the people.
September 17, 1787, marks the final draft of the Constitution that was signed by the members of the Constitutional Convention, uniting 13 separate governments into one Republic. George Washington, who presided over the Convention, would rise to become the republic’s first President. At the conclusion of his historic term, he issued his farewell address.
In it, he warned the citizens of the United States about the dangers that would destroy what so many had worked so hard to build. He feared regionalism, partisanship, and foreign entanglements. Specifically of partisanship he said, “However (political parties) may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, about which cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterward the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
Another vision of our forefathers was godliness, patriotism and unity. Unfortunately, in the span of nearly 400 years, our country has witnessed undoing of this vision. We are quickly becoming the terror our founding fathers foresaw, because we have not been careful.
Early settlers worked diligently for mere survival and gave everything they had to secure their own liberty and the liberty of future generations. As a result of their efforts, America prospered and rose to significance as a global power. With that success, the majority of United States citizens grew complacent. We’ve been seduced by other gods, namely pleasure and profit; and have forgotten God, our Creator. We’ve embraced profane laws, completely antithetical to the Scriptures and laws designed to remove even the mention of God’s name from public places. As a result, our children are no longer taught the accurate history of our country’s foundation.
Patriotism, the devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country, was once every United States’ citizen’s aspiration. But as I watch or read the news, patriotism seems now to be a curse word – hailed as outdated, discriminatory and even toxic. Our United States appears more polarized now than ever before. Those “potent engines” that President George Washington warned of seem to be careening full steam toward one another, leaving disillusioned and disheartened citizens in their wake. This is not the America that our founding fathers envisioned.
But I believe, it is not too late to rekindle the vision and restore what the Founding Fathers worked so hard to achieve. It’s time for the American people to wake up. Freedom in our Republic is possible, but it requires work. Hard work. Being a free American requires diligent study, boldness of belief and the willingness to hold our elected officials accountable, regardless of party. Benjamin Franklin once said, after the completion of the Constitution, that our elected officers’ officials had given us a Republic – a government by the people, for the people – “if we could keep it”.
Martin is in the tenth grade and shared, “I wrote this paper as I felt like it was something that needed to be said as some is good and some not so good”.
Martin’s grandfathers served in the Army, his dad in the U.S. Air Force and his brother who currently is serving in the Army.
Martin shared that his future plans are split between going into a military historian avenue or a military career. However, when Billy Lee presented him with his award, he introduced Martin as “My Marine! Oh, wait a minute, his hair is too long on the top.”
Second-place winner was Gavin Shires. Within his paper, he wrote, “The Founding Fathers imagined a country of free people working together for the general welfare, liberty and establishment of a more perfect union. But, if the Founders saw America today, they would be bewildered at what they see.”
This is Gavin’s fourth time he has placed in the VFW writing contests. He shared, “I feel passionate about these types of issues and wanted to give my two cents.”
Today, there are many youth who are committed at a young age to make a difference in the political arena.
“It’s really good that kids still take interest in how good America is,” Post Commander Billy Lee said.