Winners of the VFW Auxiliary Voice of Democracy essay contest include, from left, Alyssa Fernholz, second place; Hannah Schwartzrock, first place; and Hayden Hooks, third. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED
The VFW Auxiliary sponsored the Voice of Democracy audio-essay contests for students in grades nine through 12. Students were asked to write and record an essay on the theme, “Is the constitution still relevant today?”
Following are the winning essays. The first place winner’s essay was sent on to District 6 competition.
by Hannah Ruth Schwartzrock
It was on the 29th of May in the year of 1786, over 220 years ago, when fifty-five determined gentlemen of various ages and origins all gathered to begin a highly anticipated discussion concerning the potential new future of their beloved country; they were to construct a document that would express the agreed upon method for which the national government of the United States would carry out its role in uniting the country’s people. Although each delegate possessed quite unique qualities and experiences, assembled on this day was a group of men who all shared the same hope for the successfulness of their nation, desire for a sufficient home in which their families and neighbors could thrive, and dissatisfaction with their current government’s ineffectiveness. And these common aspects would, over the course of four grueling months of deliberation and dispute, come to enable our Founding Fathers to produce a constitution that has, to this day, yet to be replaced.
Although it is very true that the United States’ Constitution has incurred 27 amendments, including some that have actually retracted from prior sections of the composition, it is, nonetheless, extremely difficult to declare that which has been our basis for democracy all this time now obsolete. Some might say that America has endured so much since the Constitution’s unveiling that those who still find relevance in the fading, weathered pieces of paper are quite blind; after all, it was assembled during a time when the majority of Americans believed the existence of slavery was perfectly acceptable. We have struggled through twelve wars since then, a devastating depression, and countless, taxing civil affairs. The population of our country has grown from less than four million in 1790 to nearly 313 million today. Industry and technology have been revolutionizing the American way of life for years. Our culture has been transformed into something so diverse and so foreign to that of the late 1700’s; how could the writings of men in that distant age be significant to us any longer?
Yet, in the very argument against the Constitution’s relevance, an observer might find a contradictory piece of evidence illuminating just how valid the document still is. We must inquire as to why, exactly, this document has persevered so. Surely it is not because every single generation of citizens following that which developed the Constitution have failed to recognize its irrelevance. No, the truth is quite simple and quite obvious; there exists some core component of the United States Constitution that, despite its ever-changing environment, has thus far proven to be a veracious guide for our justice system and a laudable representation of our common beliefs.
What was it that aroused such a legendary aspiration in the hearts of our pilgrim ancestors who would venture into unknown worlds, abandoning all that was familiar and risking their lives, for hope of a better life? And what was it that instilled a determination in the minds of those who have ever fought bravely for our country, of those who have ever struggled restlessly for the decent and equal treatment of human beings, and of those who have ever dared outlandishly to accomplish incredible feats? It was and is that same deeply rooted value that has always been the foundation of this great country: the respect for humankind and the necessity of freedom for the individual.
A decade before the Constitutional Convention was held, this American perspective was recorded: “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.” This value is embedded in the Constitution because it was embedded in the thoughts of those fifty-five earnest men delegated to create the Constitution. There may come a day when the current methods for protecting our citizen’s rights and freedoms are found in need of modification, but there will never be a time when our country’s true constitution—the resolve to preserve those rights and freedoms—becomes irrelevant.
by Alyssa Fernholz
I feel that to really understand something and make a decision about it, you must first know a little bit about it. Therefore when I sat down to write this speech, I came with an open mind willing to look over every detail to get the entire story. I gathered up my information and came to a conclusion. The constitution is a piece of paper that will never die.
The constitution of the United States was written in 1787 but wasn’t ratified until 1788. There were seven original articles throughout approximately 250 years there have been 27 amendments more ratified since. The constitution states the basic rights and privileges we have as United States citizens. The Constitution was designed to accomplish two primary objectives, to institute a government that would effectively exercise those rights and privileges. For example if we have the right of speech the government cannot take away this right. The second is to protect the individual rights we are entitled to through the Declaration of Independence and also the Bill of Rights. This states that they cannot take away the rights we are entitled to by the constitution. The constitution is still very relevant today. I cannot comprehend how anyone could say it was not. It is all around us in our daily lives; it is how we interpret our laws today. It has withstood the hardest thing to withstand, time. Through all the years it has rightly served our country and will continue to do an exceptional job.
For example the women would not have a right to vote. I really take this to heart because I strongly believe that women and men should have equal rights. If the women still did not have the right to vote. Everything as we know it today would be different! There would be no women in the senate or in the white house at all. Women may not even hold management jobs or jobs of high importance. Any woman who says the constitution is not relevant is very ignorant.
The framers of the constitution were truly brilliant. When composed the document, they did not leave it finalized. They allowed it to be vague so that it could be changed to fit any conditions the United States needed it to stand for at the appropriate time. The judicial branch would be left to interpret the constitution in ways that would fit the circumstances.
This is where amendments truly come into play; amendments are there to ensure that the constitution never gets outdated. It allows the government to make necessary changes to the constitution, as needed. This way we can make the vague document more precise.
No matter whether mankind stay the same or changes, the constitution will remain relevant. Technology has taken us to places that have enabled us to be more empowered and control of our lives. However, no matter how much technology we involve into we will always have to protect man from themselves. As long as the constitution stays intact we can make sure this country will maintain order and justice.
by Hayden Hooks
Is our constitution relevant? This is a question that can be answered simply by walking down the halls of my high school. Without the Constitution you would not see the diversity that we have today. Without the Constitution you wouldn’t see different races in the, same classroom The Constitution has made it so that everyone can go to school and not have to worry about being persecuted or treated differently.
The Constitution is the building block of America. It has given people rights that make them proud to be Americans. The Constitution ensures everyone has equal rights and is the main reason that our country is so strong. The Constitution is almost like a human being. It has its own personality which is constantly changing and could be considered the amendments. It has a brain, which would be our American judicial system, deciding what is deemed ethical. The preamble could be considered the heart, because it makes the Constitution work. The Bill of Rights could be the trunk as it is the building block of the constitution. The limbs could be all the citizens as they follow what the constitution allows.
A human being has the ability to change; the constitution has the same ability. These changes are called amendments. The Constitution can be changed to fit the wants or needs of America altering our country’s personality forever. Over time there have been a lot of changes, almost like America is growing up. One prime example is the13th amendment which abolished slavery. Before this amendment America allowed slavery. Through the foresight of President Lincoln and other like-minded citizens, America was able to open its eyes and see that treating humans as slaves was wrong. Though it took a civil war, the 13th amendment was passed in 1865. This was a huge step in making America what it is today.
Another example of America growing up came in 1868 when the 14th amendment was adopted, making everyone born in the US a citizen. It also gave everyone who lived in our great country the opportunity to become a citizen. This amendment compliments the 13th amendment because the largest group that it affected was African Americans. It made them citizens and gave them the same rights as other citizens.
However, even though the 14th amendment gave citizenship to African Americans but did not give them the right to vote. In 1870 the 15th amendment made it illegal for the government to deny a male citizen the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Though this amendment was passed, it took many years for it to actually be put in place. Southern states had many different means of forbidding African Americans the right to vote, and it took about a century for this amendment to actually take effect.
Through adversity African American men were able to gain the right to vote, but it would take a full 50 years to accomplish the same for women. The 19th amendment, passed in 1920, gave everyone the right to vote no matter what race, color, or gender they are. It was ratified to help women gain more power. Women were treated very poorly in America at that time. But today there are many women who are more powerful than men. Though women have more rights today, they are still not totally equal. In the second 2012 presidential debate President Obama said, “I’ve got two daughters and I want to make sure that they have the same opportunities that anybody’s sons have.”
Think of what the United States would be today without our living breathing Constitution. Our country certainly would have a different personality without the amendments of the Constitution. There might still be slavery. Women and minorities still might not have any rights. Though the founders of the Constitution didn’t get everything right when they first made it, the thing they did do right was to allow the people the ability to add to it, giving it room to change and grow. A great example of change would be our 44th President; Barrack Obama. An African American president would have been unconceivable without amendments to the Constitution. The Constitution is always growing. Without the Constitution would any of this be possible? Would any of the things I have mentioned be possible? Yes, our Constitution is relevant today maybe more so then ever. For the complete article see the 01-05-2013 issue.
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