Veterans of Foreign Wars Downriver Post 7487 presented the Bruce R. Sutherland – Lawrence A. Stephens Memorial Scholarship to Evan Hoffmann and Anthony Peters at a ceremony Friday at the “Circle of Honor” in Lewiston’s Academy Park.
Peters is a Lewiston-Porter High School graduate who will attend Purdue University to study computer and electrical engineering. Peters is a graduate of Chesterton Academy of Buffalo who will attend the University at Buffalo to study marketing.
Presenting the award was VFW Cmdr. Gordon Spencer, and Jackie Sutherland, Bruce’s wife.
The VFW asked students to produce an essay stating how each entrant can be a good American. Here's how the scholarship winners answered that question:
America has stood strong as a nation, defending independence, freedom, and liberty for the over 200 years since its founding. Natural rights and the implementation of democracy worldwide have been greatly influenced by America’s every action. Therefore, I believe that the principle that defines a “good American” is someone willing to do what they can to defend and develop these rights both locally and internationally.
When America was first founded it held many flaws such as the ineffectiveness of the Articles of Confederation, the treatment of women, and the usage of slaves after declaring all men equal. It is only due to the actions of great Americans that these issues have been solved today. Great Americans to me are people like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King. Those are all people who took action when injustice was realized: prompting a change to happen. Without Harriet Tubman, hundreds of lives would have remained enslaved. Without Abraham Lincoln, slavery might have persisted in America for decades longer. Without Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, real change and desegregation might have never happened in the South. All of these people found a cause they believed in and fought tooth and nail to create a better future for America. Their actions directly or indirectly granted people freedom and rights, the way that the founding fathers had promised.
Not all people can achieve great things on such a scale as those historical figures, however, that does not mean that they can’t be a part of the change. A great American must have it within themselves to be the change that they believe in. If they believe that the environment needs protection, then they should take the initiative to do their part to clean and protect it. If they believe that a minority is being suppressed, they should show their support in any way they can. A great American embodies the change they wish to happen because America evolves.
I believe the key to being a good American is threefold. The three components that summarize the American lifestyle the best are: preserving American values and ideals, respecting people’s rights, and defending America’s honor. I believe that if an individual lacks these characteristics, they cannot be called patriotic.
Holding true to America’s values is the most important. I cannot be American if I do not stand for America. The concepts and ideals laid out by our founding fathers in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence must be upheld: the dignity of the person, the sovereignty of state, and the rights of the individual.
Respecting others' freedoms and rights is vital to a secure prosperous American society. Whenever the right to life, the right to practice religion, or the right to speech/press is violated, the culprit undermines the integrity of the American populace. As a self-proclaimed patriot, I who honor the flag, must honor free speech also, even when it is unpopular. In addition, I must honor the right to life, even when it is undesirable, and the right to religion, even when the set of beliefs does not coincide with mine. The defense of my compatriots’ rights is important to the defense of our country’s honor.
St. Paul said in one of his epistles, something to the effect of, “if you don’t work, you don’t eat.” Likewise, if an inhabitant of the U.S. does not do his/her part to honor the country, defend its values, and respect others, the country will begin to malfunction. It is not enough to live by the nation’s ideas, I must stand for them. America should not be likened to a doormat. Patriots must stand against any attempt to violate speech, life, or freedom. America cannot exist unless we look to our borders, both literally and figuratively, and defend it against threats, both domestic and foreign, with the means at our disposal, whether through arms or argument.
In conclusion, the life of a good American is a lot of work. However, what America stands for cannot be violated. In order to be a good American, it is crucial that I respect others, abide by the laws, and defend my country, for, a patriot cannot slack on his duties when he has received a higher calling to serve his country.