Two winners were announced for the Pelican Rapids VFW-sponsored Voice of Democracy essay contest. Placing first was Desi Hurley, pictured holding the U.S. flag, with classmate Emma Hoover, who placed second.

Representing Post 5052 are Ruth Holmgren, VFW Auxiliary, and Pelican Rapids English teacher Joyce Burnham, who has been dedicated in her encouragement of students to enter writing contests over the years.

My Responsibility to America: A nation that doesn’t respect each other is not a nation

By Desi Hurley, First Place 

America is the home of our early patriots. To remain a free land, America comes with centuries of responsibilities from the early pilgrims who worked, to citizens and soldiers of modern eras who work to keep our country alive. I have inherited those responsibilities—responsibilities that have never truly changed.

My involvement in FFA has taught me some of my responsibilities. Our FFA motto outlines those responsibilities: Learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live, living to serve. First, there is learning a skill or getting an education to better myself, my community, and my country. Conservation is a responsibility.  I have learned identification of various plants and animals, in an effort to preserve nature. Second, doing to learn encourages me to get hands on experience. Sometimes that even means putting myself in someone else’s shoes.  Those shoes do not fit as well as my favorite pair, but the experience gives me understanding and appreciation for the dignity of all other jobs. Third, earning to live means putting in my own effort. I work hard at my job, and I never expect anything handed to me.  I take pride in being as self-sufficient as possible.  Finally, there is living to serve.  It means serving myself, my school, my community, my township, my state, and my country. Whether it is volunteering at the food shelf, supporting our military, or as simple a thing as helping a neighbor out, I have served.

I have even more responsibilities.  I have a responsibility to respect others whether they differ from me or if they are my next of kin.  A nation of citizens that does not respect each other is not a nation at all. I must respect firefighters, police officers, and the brave men and women who have stood and still stand up to fight for the United States of America.  Respect for each other helps build the American dream.

I also have a responsibility to stand up and fight when someone comes knocking on the door trying to tear down my beloved country. I must be willing to lace up my boots if I need to and fight to protect the very flag that has already had so much blood shed for it.

Freedoms found in our Bill of Rights come with great responsibilities. I may have the freedom of speech, but I have to watch what I say and remember who might be listening to what I say. I have the freedom to peaceful protest, but there cannot be any violence or harm of any kind. I have the right to bear arms, but I must use a firearm with respect and proper safety etiquette.

My responsibility to America is to know my rights and to know what I need to go along with those rights. I have the right to worship as I wish; I should never judge people or what they believe even if it differs from my beliefs. I have the right to a fair trial with a jury of my peers, but I need to take on my responsibility to serve on a jury. I have the right to vote at the age of 18; going along with that I should be informed on the candidates and their platforms. I have a responsibility to pay taxes every two weeks out of my pay check.  As painful as it is, those taxes are used to better my school, my community, my township, my state, and my country.

My responsibilities to America go way farther than what is written down. Way farther than what is written down in the Constitution, our Bill of Rights and Amendments. My responsibility is something I learn, do, live, and serve for my family, community, and country.

 Find solutions to the violence, hatred in the country today

By Emma Hoover, Second Place 

My responsibility is to support America through my duties. As Americans we have rights and responsibilities, but our most important responsibility is to protect our rights. It is my responsibility to make my voice heard to influence better politicians and role models for this country.

We learn how to be good citizens from watching our parents, who teach us how to be thoughtful, caring and respectful people. In my opinion being a role model for a child is the most important job. Children learn by watching and more often than not follow in the footsteps of their parents. After that, school, church and our neighbors teach us what it means to be responsible citizens in society. These organizations and people teach us many admirable qualities from being a hard worker to an encouraging friends. I think that this is why it is so important to become involved in as many activities as possible, because we learn so much from our leaders and responsibilities.

One of my duties is to go to school. This may sound like something I have to do, but it is very important for the future of America that people are educated and get good jobs to contribute to society. Without a good education, America will quickly fail. School is important because it teaches confidence and how to be responsible with time and energy. One example of this would be to be proactive and get homework done before doing fun things. I have had to give up many hours at work to complete homework assignments. Being prepared gives lots of confidence which floods into all areas of life. Some of my peers are having trouble accepting the responsibilities that come with being an adult. It tends to be the kids who did not put much effort into school, and now they are having to deal with the consequences and will not be very prepared for adult life.

Also most crime happens in inner cities where education and family support might not be as strong. If people are educated they will most likely get a better job. In today’s economy 35.4% of people are on welfare, that’s 109,631,000 people. If we could reduce that, even by half, we could reduce a lot of our debt. I feel that to have a strong country, you need to have a strong economy and this would be a big step in the right direction.

I also support America by watching the news. It is extremely vital to be aware of your surroundings and other events that are going on around the world. Without people knowing about events, we cannot stop injustices and corruption. I think more people need to watch the news if we want America to strive. News is important because it causes us to form opinions about politics and events going on around the world. Opinions are important because it makes us think about what is happening and expands your mind and point of view. Sometimes people get lots of one sided information, I feel that this is not good because you could very easily get the wrong information. I try to keep an open mind when watching the news because I believe that we need to see the whole picture to be fair to other citizens. Watching the news can also teach us to look for bias. Even though the news is not supposed to be biased, they can be through their word choice and tone. I feel that this is vital to getting all the facts and keeping an open mind.

I also think it is important as Americans to vote and know exactly who we are voting for. Our politicians control how we live and work together. After all, our founding fathers created a great system where we can control who we elect to make and pass laws. If we want a future for America we need to have everyone’s voice heard. I feel that at this time in our country we need a great leader to guide us in the right direction. Whether it is a politician or a great role model we need some solution to the violence and hatred in this country.

If we want to become a better nation, we need to be better at the base of the country, its citizens. My responsibility is to make my voice heard to make a positive change in this country. America needs to come together as a whole and find valuable solutions to our economy, violence and political issues if we want to ensure future generations the same opportunities that we have now.