Essay Archive

American History; Our Hope for the Future

(The full text of Olivia Olson’s winning Voice of Democracy essay)

The binding is a bit loose, the pages curl slightly with age, and the passages have been highlighted and margins doodled in by previous students. My American history textbook is certainly aging, but the messages it contains are timeless. Sitting in class and thumbing through those yellowed pages, I am suddenly transported through time.

The birth of a new nation begins to unfold from dense paragraphs in Chapter 3. The American Revolution. Thirteen scrappy colonies tenuously bound in the ideals of liberty and democracy. Protesting the tyranny of Britain, Bostonians dump tea in the harbor, twelve delegates meet at the first Continental Congress, and George Washington recounts Thomas Paine’s iconic words to his troops, “these are the times that try men’s souls.” And when their souls were tried, their bravery, patriotism, and determination to forge a better future never wavered, and the United States of America was born. The reading concludes with an illustration of the Battle of Yorktown and the simple caption, “a glorious victory for the newly formed nation.”

An insert in Chapter 7 discusses American inventions. A cartoon image depicts Thomas Edison refusing to give up on his lightbulb, claiming, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” And nearly 100 years later, visionaries like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates advance computer technology, putting libraries and symphonies at our fingertips. The spirit of innovation is an inherent part of our history, one fostered by the belief that we can always improve the world around us. I look up from my textbook, sitting in a room lit by American innovation and chairs filled with students from all around the world. Their parents and ancestors came here for a better future and helped build, shape, and advance this nation.

A yellow Post-it note serves as a forgotten bookmark and draws my attention to a black and white photograph in Chapter 16. Women pour into the streets, donning signs that demand gender equality and the right to vote. In the section on Civil Rights, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his dream to a crowd at the Lincoln Memorial, and hundreds of people march across my page at Selma, protected by the National Guard. The subjugation of women and people of color are unignorable stains on the tapestry of our history. But today, these stains serve as reminders not to repeat the mistakes of the past. And they also remind us, that even in the face of oppression or prejudice, the American people can exercise the rights earned for each citizen to realize the intent of the Constitution: that we are all created equal.

Now notice I say earned, not given, when talking about our rights as American citizens. Because the liberties we enjoy, our unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” have been bravely defended by our veterans. Without them, we wouldn’t have had the security to pursue innovations that changed the world, the freedom to speak our minds, nor the ability to stand here today, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, looking towards a bright future.

The bell rings suddenly, dismissing my history class and shaking me from my thoughts. I look at the glossy U.S. flag cover of my textbook and slide it into my backpack. As I walk to my next class, I think about the students who will traipse through these halls 60 years from now. High school seniors, just like me, will read their updated American history textbooks and be transported through the events of the past. I hope those chapters fill them with the same pride that I feel today. I hope they live in a world where these qualities, those of Washington, Gates, and King, characterize what it means to be an American. I hope that my children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren live in a country that continues to foster an innovative, resilient, and brave society.

Youth Essay

Youth Essay Contests

Voice of Democracy Contest

“In Serving in Our Military Is There Pride?” by Katarina Nguyen

“I’m sorry; you didn’t make it. I will live my life for you”.

The crumpled letter is overlooked, tucked away in the crevices of the Boots to Books Monument erected for soldiers; a message from one soldier to another: one hero to another. This soldier has spent his birthday surviving a surprise ambush; this soldier has witnessed his best friend being blown to pieces; this soldier has been through the fiery depths of near-death and has scratched his way back. These soldiers enlisted because it was their intrinsic duty towards their country; they enlisted to stop the inherent evils of the world; they enlisted for you and me, America. I’ve had the honor of speaking to soldiers from all walks of life. Their unanimous answer to my inquiry, “is there pride in serving in our military?” replays in my mind: “I have lost brothers and sisters, a part of my soul. But being there, for my family and my country, I am proud.” These soldiers are interwoven in an intricate tapestry of American pride, each thread a vibrant spark of red, white, and blue: the colors of freedom.

94 year old P-39 pilot Buck enters the room, with thick glasses perched on his wrinkled face. The colonel’s sunken eyes remain proud as he recollects his 137 flight missions during World War II: Smoke and flames choked the air as airplanes wildly spiraled downwards and out of control. Seeing the white, blossoming parachutes though, he knew some pilot was being saved. As the bursts swirled towards the ocean, a navy was waiting. Buck’s pride is apparent.

Tom saunters in; as a medic Staff Sergeant during the Korean War, he is an unsung hero. Tom whispers, “It overwhelms you: a three ton truck full of U.S. men, dead. The KIAs were stacked like cardboard until spring”. Tears threatened to spill for those he couldn’t save; he hasn’t cried in 30 years. He has saved lives, working through icy winters and blazing summers in the 23rd infantry of the second division. Despite everything, Tom’s pride is apparent.

Jim, a proud E-5 Sergeant, lost his best friend during the Vietnam War: Ron was only 19. Kevin lost 241 brothers and sisters, in a single terrorist attack in Lebanon. Peter was a fortunate survivor of an Iraqi suicide car bomb; he also missed his five-week old son growing up while serving in Afghanistan. James remembers the friends he lost in Europe from the Cold War. These soldiers have seen limbs blown apart and bodies strewn about amidst rapid gunfire and warfare, the fleeting image of their loved ones as their last thoughts. With each life lost, is the loss of a caring father, an optimistic boy scout, a quiet sister, a beloved American. Yet, amongst this loss is pride. Patriots fight in air, land, and sea, for you and me, America. They carry their hearts out onto the bloodied battle field and bear the burden of sacrifice to protect our proud nation.

We will perpetually set the sacred table: the bitter lemon wedge and salt grains of fate and tears, the vacant chair of loss, the delicate black napkin of captivity, the lone overturned glass of an uneaten meal, the pure white candle of peace, the single blood-red rose and the ribbon of hope, the rough grains of salt spelling out the word “hero”, all placed on the simple white tablecloth of a soldier’s pure heart. Our nation takes pride in honoring our heroes.

Throughout history, brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines -at home and abroad- have fought to protect our nation, our freedom, and our values. They continue to bear the uniform of the United States of America from the 235 years since our nation’s declaration of independence. It’s quixotic to believe that you and I could enjoy this sweet freedom without the blood, sweat, and tears and the unwavering determination of those serving in our military that we often take for granted. The pride arising from standing shoulder to shoulder with brothers and sisters in arms, under a single flag is immeasurable.

So, as the rain begins to fall and the wind picks up, the crinkled letter is swept away and the ink smears into bright multihued splotches. The soldier’s words fade away to join the soldier’s fallen friend, but his message is etched in my mind. Despite the loss, there is hope. Among the crevices springs life. In our military, there is pride.


Youth Essay

Youth Essay Contests

Voice of Democracy Contest

VFW Post 8870 selected Katarina Nguyen, a junior at Edmonds-Woodway High School as the 2010-2011 Voice of Democracy winner.  This is the second year Ms. Nguyen has been selected by Post 8870 as the winner of the Voice of Democracy.


“Does my generation have a role in America’s future?”


“Give me liberty or give me death”.  In 1775, Patrick Henry’s immortalized statement instigated colonists’ courage to free themselves from the British, just one year prior to the brave leaders in Philadelphia declaring our country’s independence.  Here we are, 234 years later; the times have changed, from fashion to technology, even politics, but the honor and bravery of patriots remain unchanged.  Now ironically, my history class is currently delving into the world of American history in which we learn the “vital” aspects, analyzing not only the motives and the causes, but also the failures, the effects, and even the outcomes. Wait. I see great leaders and even tragic losers in my textbook, but what about the silent soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for America?  What about them? Even now, in this era of new music, iPads, and Health Care reform, brave patriots silently bear the uniform of the United States of America, continuing a legacy for us to enjoy the blessings of liberty. Looking past the history text, at home and abroad, brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have fought for and defended our great homeland. But, does my generation have a role in America’s future? Of course we do, as we continue to bear this sacred torch of tradition and continue to fight, to sacrifice, for our country and our freedom.

America is filled with patriots, but what do patriots have to do with my future? After all, a soldier defending America doesn’t affect the time Jeopardy airs on television or what grade I receive on my biology test. Actually, we must look past this misconception; on television, we see “the future” in news broadcasts of senate elections, car commercials, the new and improved weight loss pill; yet, soldiers are the future; soldiers serve the children playing in the park, soldiers serve the elderly lady living down the street, soldiers serve you.

My grandpa served in the army before he passed away. Several of my family members have followed his footsteps in defending our liberty and shaping our futures. A purple heart was not earned for nothing. 20 years of military service was not given for nothing. Their loved ones did not worry night after night in six, twelve, even twenty four month increments for nothing. They, among others, fight for you, for me, and for freedom.

If we stripped America of all people except the individuals crucial to her preservation, who would remain? No, it’s neither Lady Gaga nor Bill Gates; it’s the armed forces of the United States of America, the men and women who alone, have earned the right to stand proudly. This includes the 2.3 million brave men and women currently serving in the five branches of the military of the United States for our freedom through unwavering American patriotism.

So it’s up to my generation to carry on the sweet liberty that has been established for us through blood, sweat, and tears on the bloodied battle field. My generation is filled with patriots who follow the footsteps of the great leaders before them, sacrificing, fighting, even dying. Our country has the greatest patriotism in the world; we all have grandpas and grandmas, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, moms and dads, and friends and family, who have fought to preserve the land of the free and the home of the brave.


I am immensely grateful to be living in this generation, in which my heroes have paved the way for me to be able to live in luxury; I can speak my opinion without censorship, I can go anywhere I wish whenever I wish, and I have the same right to become successful as the next person.

What is our role in our future? Isn’t it clear? We must support our country as our nation’s sentinels of freedom continue to walk their posts in defending our land under the proud and unwavering, red, white, and blue flag. I am America, you are America, our role is in her future; my generation is the future. As soldiers of war, we are the saviors of America; we are the hard workers; we strive for safe communities; we are the next generation of mothers and fathers cradling our babies; we represent hope, growing, advancing; we are the police officers, firefighters, pilots, servicemen and women working in collaboration and unity for America. My generation’s role for the future is the future; we follow those who have come before, fighting in air, land, and sea for you and me, America. Meanwhile, as I read a sentence from my history textbook about America’s success in gaining her independence, I have the urge to pencil in next to the phrase “America’s success”, the words “to be continued”.


Patriot’s Pen Contest

VFW Post 8870 proudly sponsored the state of Washington VFW winner Harrison William Baxter in the Elementary Youth Essay Contest. Mr. Baxter is a 5th grader in Madrona K-8 located in Edmonds, WA.

An American Patriot

The definition of patriot is “A person who vigorously supports their
Country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.” as defined in Webster’s Dictionary. To me a patriot means a person who will defend their country any way possible.

There are a few main reasons why I love the United States of America. First, I love that we can make free choices and can be individuals.

I also like how we have equal rights. No matter of our color, religion, or gender, we call all do the same things and we treat each other the same. Everybody can vote, own property, and even have the same job. Lastly, everybody in the United States of America has access to education. So no matter if you are a boy or girl you can get an education.

We can protect and defend the United States from pollution, narrow minded people, and poor leaders. Pollution is a horrible thing and sadly there is a lot of it. It comes from cars, factories and boats. Another thing we can defend is judging other people. We need to protect ourselves from passing judgement because it could take away our freedom and ability to be individuals. We also need to elect responsible people who won’t make laws that take our freedoms away. That leader should also value education and a variety of view points.

I protect and defend the United States by helping my community. I pick up trash and clean public areas. I keep in control of pollution by walking or riding my bike to a friend’s house or the bus stop. I support leaders and officials who value education and rights for all. I do this because I think that those are very important things. I also work really hard in school so I can be a leader someone will look up to.

An American Patriot is a person who loves the United States of America and its values. An American Patriot is a person who is willing to stand up for the United States’ principles. I am an American Patriot because I love this country and all my freedoms. These freedoms exist because of the patriots before me. I am willing to do all that I can everyday to ensure that the United States values that I hold dear stay safe, today and in the future.