Highlands School senior wins essay contest

Highlands School senior John Brooks won Voice of Democracy’s essay contest themed “why is voting important” at the district level and accepted an award in Brevard on Jan. 19 for his achievement.

“I wrote about the potential dangers of not voting and why people began voting in the first place,” said Brooks.

Brooks won the local-level round in Waynesville, received his award in Brevard for winning the district level, and will head to Cary, N.C. on Feb. 9 to find out if he won at the state level. If he progresses to the national level, he could win $30,000 in scholarship money. Brooks said he intends on studying game design and tuition at those types of school is expensive.

“Every bit helps, and it will allow me to pursue my dreams as a game designer,” said Brooks. “It’s exciting.”

Brooks discovered the contest while searching online for scholarship opportunities and stumbled upon Voice of Democracy’s essay contest. The contest is managed through the Veterans of Foreign Wars and participants are tasked with composing a 3-5-minute speech about the given topic. He recorded his essay, sent it in, and learned he had won.

Brooks begins his essay by quoting Patrick Henry “give me liberty or give me death,” and compares the dedication of those in Henry’s time to exercise their right to vote to the 53 percent of people who could vote that cast their ballot in the 2016 presidential election.

“Imagine a future where almost no one votes in elections, both on the state and federal levels,” said Brooks in his essay. “Our government would be in a state in which someone with cunning and vile intent could swoop in and take charge of the country without any contest from the people. The United States, the country that was founded upon liberty, would be back under the rule of a dictator. This would mean that all the fighting by our predecessors in the Revolutionary and World Wars would be all for nothing. When all control is eventually taken from the people, only then would they realize why the colonists rebelled against their king, and why they fought and sacrificed so much in the World Wars. Every great civilization has fallen due to complacency. We can’t allow this country to fall because of our disinterested citizens. So, what can we do?

Brooks goes on to suggest that one solution would be to dismantle the mentality that “my vote doesn’t matter.”

“Tell them that their vote does matter, that they have the power to determine who gets to lead this country,” he said in his essay. “Show them that voting is vital to our government and that our ancestors fought tooth and nail against impossible odds, just so they could have the right to vote.”

Another solution he suggests is eliminating the distrust the public has for politicians and addressing the general unlikability of candidates.

“People don’t vote because they don’t trust or like the politicians that are available to vote for,” said Brooks. “Instead of pointing out insignificant and meaningless flaws of their opponents, politicians should focus on the people that they should be helping, instead of entertaining them. So, if the people trust politicians, there’s still the problem of people not liking them. If you don’t like either candidates, then you need to pick the less of two evils.”

Brooks’ Social Studies Teacher, Chris Green, said he was impressed with Brooks’ essay, but thought the initiative shown to compete in the contest is something you don’t see very often in students.

“I am proud of his essay he wrote but I’m prouder that he initiated this on his own,” said Green. “Not a lot of teenagers would do that. It was really impressive that he took it on himself. He’s a driven kid.”

English Teacher David Parrish also had Brooks as a student and was impressed by his initiative to submit his essay.

“It was very impressive, he’s worked hard at this,” said Parrish. “I think he wrote something like seven drafts. He deserves to win and it’s cool to see him chase after what he wants. It’s scary to put yourself out there and try to be the best.”

Pictured at the top of article is John Brooks at Highlands School looking up details about the Voice of Democracy essay contest.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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