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The Odyssey

The Odyssey

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Voice of Democracy 2023 – 1st place

The Greatest Attribute(s) of Democracy

Often, without reason, I find myself in front of a mirror, wondering how I got a new mole or why my eyebags got so deep; it’s a part of growing up I suppose. Most people would agree that they have stared at themselves in the mirror on occasion, whether for the sake of vanity or just in passing curiosity. One might remember how they looked when they were younger, now adorned with wrinkles of worry and well-earned smile lines. Left with emotional and physical scars littered across their body and mind, embarrassment from past mistakes. However, inside is a part that is still proud of whom one has grown into today. Not perfect, yet alive with newfound wisdom from a well-lived life. 

 

Only 246 years ago the United States of America declared itself a sovereign country; growing from bands of colonists who only wanted a say in government, into militia-men unafraid to die in an effort to seek freedom for their subsequent generations. To us, this was lifetimes ago but in retrospect, we are in adolescence compared to our counterparts across the world. The Founding Fathers set the frameworks of the growing country, a free Democratic Republic built on “We The People.” In the background however, there were voices begging to be listened to but at the time left unheard. “Remember the ladies,” First Lady Abigail Adams once encouraged to husband John Adams. It seems he forgot.

 

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Only 174 years ago, I would have led a life void of political, economic, and overall human rights. In 1848, women took the first major stand against inequality. Convening in Seneca Falls, New York, they drafted their own declaration inserting themselves as people who deserved the respect from peers and an ability to lead an independent life. Grown from pamphlets handed out discreetly into women standing up for themselves. Using their God-given right of voice, the beginning of the woman’s voice in democracy had begun.

 

Only 102 years ago, would I gain the right to vote, the 19th Amendment. A movement grown from small groups of women gathering for tea to hundreds of organizations gaining support. They banded together under the hope that their rights would be observed by Congress and added to the Constitution. In 1920, at long last Congress voted to add women’s suffrage to the Constitution after years of jeering from political enemies. Women celebrated everywhere, ecstatic that their voice proved powerful. However, there was still work to be done.

 

Only 72 years ago would I have been encouraged to be a housewife. Despite empowering figures such as Rosie the Riveter in the 1940s, Rosie was replaced with role models like Donna Reed in the 1950s. Women dropped dreams of collegiate careers to become a mother and wife. The women who went against the grain were considered untamed, it was said a woman needed a man after all. However, women fought hard against the norm, growing in numbers, protesting against discrimination. They once again used their God-given right, the right to use their voice.

 

Only 50 years ago, would I be told by authority figures that because of my sex and heritage, I’d get nowhere in life. Nevertheless thrown into the workforce due to a struggling economy; left juggling worker, mother, and maid at home. One must agree that this country, despite our deep love for it, has had several dark moments. As an adolescent country, we’ve had lots of growing pains and not only just within the example of women’s rights. 

 

Yet within these experiences, the voice of democracy grew to create these changes, through the rights brought upon by our Founding Fathers 246 years ago and by our Creator at birth: freedom of speech, freedom of protest, freedom of the press. Under other governments one would never have the chance to use their voice, instead faced with ridicule by peers. We must cherish the world we live in today, the democracy we live under for the freedom that we have. Though we may have far to go, we live in the best of times.

 

Democracy is so much more than boxes behind polling screens, superficial politics, the ‘D’ or ‘R’ beside a name on a ballot one votes for. Democracy is ever-changing, more than a political ideology. It is the power it holds, the change that it creates, what we can do if we just use our voice. Looking in the mirror shows the horrifying faults of the past. It tells us what we should do to keep it from repeating. 

 

Our Democratic Republic is not perfect. The looking glass shows scars from the past. It has never been perfect, and it may take centuries to ever get close to perfect. Our Founding Fathers knew this when writing the documents that we continue to uphold to this day. They asked only for a “more perfect Union,” rather than “the perfect Union.” However, our country has grown into the most powerful nation on Earth. When Americans look into a mirror, we see our country has matured and grown wise. The mirror reveals emotional scars from tragedy, physical scars from war. Wrinkles and smile-lines adorn us as we carry ourselves proudly as patriots. Reflecting upon our nation’s past, we find our greatest attribute is our capacity for growth. Ever-changing from those 246 years ago, the efforts of those before me have made it possible for me to do so much more than I ever could have before. And with due diligence we will grow and be just who we were meant to be.

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