Edgemont student submits winning essay in ‘Voice of Democracy’

Photo by Eric Harrold/Fall River County Herald-Star

At halftime of a basketball game last month, Bill Barlow presented Amy Printz with a $300 award for her winning essay submitted for the Voice of Democracy contest through the Custer Veterans of Foreign Wars organization. This year’s theme was, “Is This the Country the Founders Envisioned?”


By Eric Harrold

Staff Writer

EDGEMONT – Amy Printz, a 10th-grader at Edgemont High School, was recently presented a $300 scholarship award for submitting a winning essay to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Voice of Democracy Program. This year’s theme is: Is This The Country that the Founders Envisioned?

Printz’s essay submission won at the district level of competition and has been forwarded for consideration at the state level.

The Edgemont sophomore says that her motivation to participate was driven strongly by the essay topic. She learned about the contest through her geography teacher, Eric Reynolds, who was made aware of the program through his father who is a member of the Custer VFW.

Printz says that her success in the contest has encouraged her to pursue all opportunities that are given to her. After high school, she plans to attend nursing school with the goal of becoming a pediatric nurse.

According to the Veterans of Foreign Wars website, the Voice of Democracy audio-essay program was established in 1947 and provides high school students with the unique opportunity to express themselves in regards to a democratic and patriotic-themed recorded essay. Each year, nearly 40,000 9th-12th grade students from across the country enter to win their share of $2.1 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the program.

The national first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient’s American university, college or vocational/technical school. A complete list of other national scholarships range from $1,000-$16,000, and the first-place winner from each VFW Department (state) wins a minimum scholarship of $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.


Here is her winning essay....

Is This the Country that the Founders Envisioned?

Prior to 1927, what is currently known as Mount Rushmore was a massive, unmoving, unchanging piece of granite in the Black Hills of South Dakota. A man by the name of Gutzon Borglum had a vision of turning that massive piece of granite into a patriotic monument. A monument that would represent the nation’s birth, growth, development, and preservation by the values of President’s selected to be sculpted. It was a slow, laborious, costly process, but in 1941, it matched and even exceeded his vision. 

In 1776, our Founding Fathers, under the hard hand of tyranny and subject to the unmoving laws of the king, had a vision of a free country with unity, equality, and limited government. Slowly, over time, and at a great cost, a country was created that matched and maybe even exceeded this vision.  Slavery was abolished, women were given more rights and three branches of government were made.

At the completion of Mount Rushmore, the monument was smooth and did not have cracks or many imperfections. Today, when you look closely, you can see that time, and weather have left their mark. However, it is still an amazing and beautiful sight to see despite these imperfections. I think this is a picture of America. I believe that America is a great country. A free and equal country. But as time goes on, imperfections are also made more visible.

What imperfections are visible?  The government is becoming more involved and more powerful than the founding fathers envisioned.  We, as a nation, are dividing from each other, not becoming more unified as the founding fathers wanted. Thomas Jefferson said that “the end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations.” Today, campaigns of elected officials are sponsored by corporations that are trying to influence politicians’ future decisions. Politicians are being swayed by money, bribed by corporations, and I do not believe that is what our founding fathers wanted. There is also a division in our country. A divided country cannot stand, and yet, we allow things, such as opinions and politics, to divide us. The founders wanted unity and I do not believe that we are as united as we once were.

Mount Rushmore must have maintenance now and then to help slow down the effects of weathering. As does America. To keep our freedom, we must maintain it.   Thomas Jefferson said, “...If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty...”  Maybe it is our own lethargy that encourages imperfections in our America. We must stay alert, be tireless and unflagging in standing up for freedom and unity.

Thomas Jefferson also said that “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Maybe the people of America have not been diligent in maintaining our freedom as individuals. Maybe we have not been vigilant in maintaining the freedom that so many people have given their lives for. Maybe we have allowed the government to get bigger and stronger than the founders wanted. Maybe it is our job to not let them overstep boundaries and we have not done that, which causes the government to get more involved in our daily lives.

As I said before, Mount Rushmore is a beautiful sight to see, even with the imperfections. I think that America is an amazing country though there are imperfections. Yes, this country is a great, free, equal country but I believe that we are starting to stray from the vision that our Founding Fathers had. I think that it is my generation’s responsibility to preserve that vision and make some changes so that we can become the country that the founders envisioned. We must be diligent in keeping that vision alive and making the vision reality.

Fall River County Herald Star

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