Mamaroneck High School junior Patricia Cassidy and sophomore Max Gude delivered their winning compositions on Tuesday, May 25 to a crowd gathered at the school for the 10th annual Richard M. Kemper Memorial Essay Contest.
The contest, which pays tribute to the 99 Mamaroneck residents who died in World War II, is sponsored by the Richard Kemper Foundation for Promoting Human Rights Education and is administered by the Social Studies Department under the direction of Mary Cronin. The contest is supported by private donors, Paul Cantor and Jean Kemper Hoffman, the sister of Richard M. Kemper, Jr., one of those killed while serving in the war.
This year, there was an unveiling of a special plaque with the names of the contest winners over the years. The plaque will be displayed in a showcase in the front entrance of the high school.
Also new this year was a prize for a poster promoting the event. The prize went to Elizabeth Goodspeed.
“This is so exciting because I put lots of effort into it,” said. Patricia “People don’t understand what veterans go through. It’s nice to do something for them in return.”
Debbie Manetta is public information officer for the Mamaroneck School District.
Is America Honoring Her Veterans?
by Patricia Cassidy – Grade: 11
When asked if America is honoring her veterans, the fair answer is probably a debatable “yes.” If, however, the question is, “Are we honoring them enough?” the answer has to be an embarrassing “no.”
We should always be mindful of President Kennedy’s statement, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Although many of us are pleased to thank those wearing military uniforms for their service when we bump into them on our streets and in our airports, what else are we actually doing for our veterans? As the author Cynthia Ozick once wrote, “We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” Among all the treasures of America, veterans are probably the most valuable natural resource that Americans take for granted.
Since the time of Plymouth Colony, our country has provided pensions and other limited services to our veterans who became disabled in her defense. America also instituted the GI Bill to assist its Greatest Generation (providing veterans with limited financial support for education and housing) when it returned from World War II. More recently, however, we’ve read about the scandals at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where claims of neglect and deterioration led to the forced resignation of a handful of generals (including the Secretary of the Army) and resulted in numerous government investigations. The media has also reported that today’s military suicide rates are the highest they have been since records have been kept. Although our nation has done a great deal to honor and care for our veterans in the past, we obviously aren’t doing enough for them today and we have to ask ourselves, “Why aren’t we doing more?”
I am privileged to have had veterans in my family for generations. In fact, a member of my family has served in almost every armed conflict in which America has been involved. I believe that stories about soldiers landing on the beaches of Normandy have to mean more to you if they are about your great-great uncle. An HBO series about the war in the Pacific is less a matter of mere historical entertainment if your great uncle served at Bougainville, Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Okinawa and Tarawa and credited his survival with being “lucky” enough to have been wounded early in each of these epic battles. One’s sense of history is probably also skewed when your father currently serves in the same New York Army National Guard unit in which his great uncle served during the “War to End All Wars” and then again in World War II. The War on Terror may also seem more relevant and personal when your father is waiting to see when his unit will next be deployed.
They say that those serving in the National Guard are “twice the citizen.” I believe that this applies to all veterans. I was lucky enough to be born in America and, almost by default, am blessed with American citizenship. I have spent my entire life enjoying the freedoms others have obtained and maintained for me. It is not an accident that this country has historically made it easier for immigrants who have honorably served in our military to become citizens. After all, if an individual is willing to forfeit his/her life for America, how can you not honor them with citizenship? But what about the vast majority of those who served and were already citizens when they joined up or were drafted? How can we ever sufficiently honor them?
There are certainly many private programs devoted to helping those serving and who have served our country. For instance, an infantry soldier with a traumatic brain injury can reach out to Project Victory. While a National Guardsman is deployed, his daughter’s piano classes can be made possible through Our Military Kids. And although these programs are great, it speaks volumes that they are privately funded and operated. I believe we need to expand the resources provided to our military and our veterans as a people and as a country. Our military and our veterans should not need to rely on the charity of private individuals to support themselves and their families.
As in the past, the benefits we give our veterans today are an obvious reflection of the cultural and political views of our military. When a veteran dies, a flag is given to his or her family as a token “on behalf of a grateful nation.” It seems, however, that the “gratefulness” of our nation very much depends on the times. I believe that America can only be said to honor her veterans when, as a country, we fully recognize what veterans have actually given us – the ability to exist as a nation. Although there are many noble forms of public service, it is only the veteran who has left his or her home – sometimes for years at a time – to risk his/her life and earn our freedoms. We as a nation are lucky that veterans believe in deeds, not just words. Because I believe we owe so much to veterans, I can only wonder why we aren’t doing more to actually honor them.
The Many Faces of Freedom
by Maximilian Gude
On January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a memorable speech that is known today as “The Four Freedoms.” This enduring speech, given during turbulent times, still rings true today. In fact, we are still struggling to fulfill these suggestions from one of our country’s most experienced leaders. This inspiring address was not only directed towards his fellow Americans, but also our allies in World War II.
The fight to preserve liberty and democracy was injected with new spirit by Roosevelt’s unflinching conviction in the moral necessity of freedom for all people. This speech clarified and redefined what people were really fighting for. No longer was it simply a fight against fascism, it was something much larger than that. It was a battle to preserve that which makes human life meaningful, the will to be free.
The first freedom mentioned is “freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world.” Most Americans consider freedom of speech to be their most sacred of freedoms. It is passionately protected and stands as our first amendment right. Out of the ‘four freedoms’, the freedom of speech stands as the cornerstone of our society because it is precisely what makes us truly democratic. In the United States, people are able to speak their thoughts and openly express their ideas, regardless of how extreme these thoughts and ideas may appear. Compared to countries like China, where people have been sent to reeducation camps for openly criticizing the government, America is tolerant of different opinions. In fact, regardless of political affiliation or ideology, all Americans agree that freedom of speech is crucial for progress. America does not have a monopoly on this concept, but without it we would not be what we are today. Without freedom of speech our democracy stands naked, void of dignity.
The second freedom is “freedom of every person to worship God in his own way– everywhere in the world.” America is a deeply religious country. Since its founding, church pews have been full of devout Christian worshippers of different denominations. But recently, other religions have become more visible as well, especially Islam. The freedom to worship openly and freely ensures the freedom to express one of the most important aspects of a person’s culture. After the tragedy of September eleventh, America has become less open to the Muslim faith, and unfortunately, American Muslims have faced many abuses. They have become the subject of jokes, hurtful stereotypes, racial profiling and violence. We still have a long way to go to ensure that Muslims have the same rights as American Christians, Jews and other faiths.
The third freedom in Roosevelt’s speech is “freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings, which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants–everywhere in the world.” The president knew all too well that economic equality would lead to peace, while economic disparity would lead to war. In this famous speech, he was trying to explain the concept of equality in terms of freedom; for example, the freedom to live and work without fear of being exploited in the market place. Freedom is commonly misunderstood in America as the freedom of unbridled economic pursuit, but here the president clearly explains that ‘freedom’ does not include taking advantage of your fellow citizens, and if peace is to be maintained, there must be understanding between employee and employer, just as there must be understanding between nations. The ‘freedom from want’ means that no citizen should be hinged by economic woes. Precarious economic and material conditions are the main causes of war. Poverty is the exact opposite of freedom. In order to let freedom thrive, economic conditions must be such that men and women are not plagued by basic needs.
Poverty is still very much a contemporary problem. The real wage of American workers has not increased since the 1970’s. If Roosevelt were still alive today, he would be awfully ashamed at how we have neglected such an important issue. Economic inequality is the breeding ground for social instability.
Finally, the fourth freedom is “freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.” When governments go to war, they must first convince their citizens that there is an enemy worth fearing. When citizens are fearful, they are easily manipulated. More importantly, it is precisely during time of war when citizens voluntarily give-up their freedoms. Because of this reason, Roosevelt emphasizes that in order for peace to be protected, the freedom from fear must be the first line of defense. If countries reduce their arms, they also reduce the potential for creating enemies. If citizens are not easily inclined to fear potential attacks from their neighbors, governments cannot easily drag their citizens to war.
Historically, America has always had an enemy. At first, it was the Native Americans, then the British, then the Mexicans, then the Spanish, then the German Fascists, then the Russian Communists and now it is the Islamic terrorists. Whether it is the Russians, the terrorists or even a health pandemic like the recent H1N1 scare, Americans have had times when they lived in fear and have, at different moments, suspended their rights in the name of defeating an enemy. Roosevelt is asking the world, in the name of peace, to reduce not only the possibility of violence but also the active promotion of fear, which legitimizes violence. Obviously, you cannot create peace with fear. In order to have peace, we cannot be afraid of our neighbors. This speech contains the four essential freedoms necessary to ensure a peaceful democratic society. These four pillars help to maintain our government and give authority to our basic ideals. Indeed, the general idea of freedom rests on these four clarifications.
Roosevelt was not only speaking to fellow Americans, but was also speaking as a citizen of the world, conscious of the repercussions of American ideals on other countries and fully committed to creating a lasting peace for all nations. True freedom is simultaneously achieved and maintained if it is genuinely sought for all, and not just the few.