PRESCOTT- As the final days of high school draws near, many students look for opportunities to head to college with some extra cash in hand through scholarships. This was no different for Prescott High School junior Shana Edwards whose freshman English teacher told her about an essay competition for a scholarship.
“She told me about it and I thought wow, that would be interesting,” Edwards said. “I went around and asked a lot of people about what I should write about for this amazing scholarship opportunity.”
After some searching, Edwards settled on an essay regarding veterans after hearing a story from her grandmother regarding her aunt who was the widow of a Vietnam war soldier.
The essay, which Edwards said took a couple of days to complete, was so well received that it beat out 33,000 other competitors. In addition, not only did she receive $2,000 from the State of Arizona and $1,000 from the nation but also a trip to Washington D.C.
“It was really heart pounding,” Edwards said.
The Prescott High School junior was on hand at the recent Republican Women of Prescott meeting that was focused on veterans. Edwards read the essay and received a standing ovation from the hundreds in attendance.
Edwards sent a copy of her essay to eNews and it is located below.
My Responsibility to America
A young newly widowed woman falls to the ground. Time seems to slow, her memory flashing back to that one moment, that one day, that she remembers her love, her greatest love, leaving her for the last time. Her body is wracked with sobs, and the entire world seems to shake beneath her pulsing body. She suddenly remembers her 4-year-old son, who stands 5 feet away, filled with an innocent curiosity, watching his mother. She stands up, wipes away the tears, and seems to draw all the little remaining strength she can muster. The little boy walks over to his mother, and slips his steady little hand into her shaking one, unknowingly giving her strength to move her legs and take that one step into the chasm her future has become. This young widow doesn’t know it, but her actions embody the spirit of America. Her courage, her strength, to be strong for her child represents the most important part of our country. This courage, this conviction, is truly every American’s duty to the country they live in. Not only to improve themselves or become the best, but for the widows, orphans, veterans, serving soldiers, and the dead, who mustered up their courage, followed their convictions, and took their own step into the unknown.
Courage, as defined by Merriam Webster dictionary, is the ability to do something that one knows is difficult or dangerous. This rather routine description of the word shows just a small window into the depth of the spirit of the most powerful ability in the world. This ability provides the possessor to own their convictions, follow their soul, and understand the very core of their being, their conscience. Some may say that this ability is common, a generality that every human has. In my little experience in the subject, I have noticed that every human has the ability to be courageous, but most choose not to, allowing courage to become something abnormal. This abnormality does not apply to soldiers, who learned to live through courage while fighting in the battlefields of Europe, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iran. They understand the courage and conviction I must uphold to fulfill my own responsibility to America.
Furthermore, these soldiers have known and experienced far more life. They have learned more about the savagery of men, than the average American will ever know in their lifetime. These soldiers truly know what courage looks like, smells like, tastes like, sounds like and feels like. Their sacrifice of their own ignorance, to provide a better world for all truly deserves a high amount of respect. That is to say, the disabled veteran sitting at McDonald's, reading a newspaper and sipping coffee, the one who does not look up when a young girl says, “Thank you for your service sir” still does not deserve any less respect. These dauntless men and women won’t attribute their deeds or action to some superhuman characteristic. Instead, they will tell you that they just followed their conscience and their gut, which inspired their courageous acts. Hence, I am therefore convinced that every American citizen has the qualities required for undertaking brave deeds.
So what can I do? I am a lowly, high school student, at the bottom of the social class. I am not a solider, corporate manager, business owner, or a celebrity. But, I have one advantage over all of these people. I am part of the future of this great nation. This great nation has required courage of its people in its history, in its present, and it will require courage in its future. I owe this great nation, the people who have fought for my rights, my freedom to stand here, talking passionately about a topic I believe in, I owe them this courage. I owe them this conviction, to follow my conscience into the unknown. The great part is, not everyone will agree with me. No one upholds the exact same conscience or has the exact same convictions. But everyone has courage, and I know that I must use my courage to better the world around me, to fight for what I believe in, to follow my conscience even if the consequences are dire. Others around me may also do the same, and that’s the spirit of America. This use of personal courage, to fight for what one believes in. So, this struggle of convictions becomes a great thing, a compound, which forms the true American heritage. John F. Kennedy writes in his book Profiles in Courage, “In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience… each man must decide for himself the course he will follow”. I decide to undertake the responsibility I have to America, have courage, follow my convictions, and listen to my conscience.