Medford High School senior Trent Sullivan has demonstrated his impressive written and oratorical skills in an essay contest sponsored by the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars). Sullivan’s essay won first place both in Medford and in the district, which includes twenty-two different VFW chapters in the area.
The Voice of Democracy contest asked students to both write an essay and record their oral presentation within a certain length of time. The topic this year was “Is our Constitution still relevant?”
Sullivan’s essay is one of thirteen finalists in the state of Massachusetts, according to MHS teacher Nick Tucci. He presented his essay in front of the Medford VFW on Veterans Day and delivered it before the School Committee during their meeting on Monday, December 3.
Sullivan has been invited to a statewide VFW banquet later in the month. His essay so far has earned a significant amount of prize money and could potentially win more if it advances to the next level.
Sullivan’s award-winning essay is as follows:
Henry Clay once said that “The Constitution of the United States was made not merely for the generation that then existed, but for unlimited, undefined, endless, perpetual posterity.” To some, this would be an erroneous statement. How could a document written over 225 years ago, signed by men who knew nothing of Facebook, twitter, or the internet itself, who lived in what seems like an entirely different world, design a country with laws and values that remain relevant to future Americans? Is this founding document still relevant?” It is, and always will be. The Constitution restrains government from violating the peoples’ natural, unalienable rights, establishes a government in which “We the People” vote for our leaders and define our own destiny, and provides a concrete framework to inspire any nation of the world and its people who yearn for its rigid defense of freedom.
Contrary to those who perceive the Constitution as a document in which government grants people their rights, the founding fathers were firm believers of the idea of Natural Law in which rights come from birth, endowed by their Creator. Therefore, the Constitution restrains government from encroaching on the natural rights of individuals. The Founders originated an experiment of vast freedom in the United States by conceiving the Bill of Rights, the best weapon against future tyranny. This includes the first amendment, which protects our right to unrestricted free religion, champions the right of unfettered free speech, ensures a free press, defends the rights of dissenters, and the right for any citizen to assemble with others to petition their government. The fourth amendment is just as salient, making unreasonable searches and seizures illegal and securing private property rights. In addition, the Constitution guarantees the right to enjoy a trial by jury of one’s peers, Miranda rights, habeas corpus, the right to bear arms, and a whole range of individual freedoms because the constitution sets the peoples’ natural rights in stone. The profound relevance of these legal principles endures, because it is timelessly ingrained into the culture of liberty that is alive in the American spirit.
But what is the American spirit? It is the Constitution itself, for it allows the American people to define their own destiny, with those three famous words: “We the People”. The Constitution forms an independent republic with a limited government in which citizens may elect their leaders in fair elections, and may oust them from power if they fail to perform. There are numerous countries whose people do not enjoy the same republican freedoms. While we freely protest in front of the White House, thousands of Syrians protest their oppressive dictatorship, and their cries for change are met with the barrel of a gun. While we exercise our free speech on television, radio, and the internet, supposedly free European nations penalize their citizens for perceived offensive speech. It is these violations of natural rights in other countries that affirms the relevance of the U.S. Constitution today.
Why is this so? The Constitution provides a stalwart framework for those who yearn for emancipation under tyrannical governments. It spreads and inspires the American Spirit worldwide. It was in the cries for democracy of Egyptian citizens who suffered for thirty years under the malevolent leadership of President Mubarak. It is in the audacity of Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, who was imprisoned for daring to speak up against repressive Communist government of China for their human rights abuses and corruption. It is in the hearts of millions of immigrants who seek the American Dream. The American spirit is strong because the Constitution is strong, and its words are meaningful to anyone in the world who understands that they too, should be afforded the same rights granted to them by birth.
But it is an imperative to realize why the constitution was written in the first place. As President Ronald Reagan once admonished, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” In other words there will always be foes of liberty, and it is our job to repel them. We are the watchdogs of liberty. What is our responsibility? As James Madison said in Federalist Papers No. 41, “Every man who loves peace, every man who loves his country, every man who loves liberty ought to have it ever before his eyes that he may cherish in his heart a due attachment to the Union of America and be able to set a due value on the means of preserving it.” That is why I believe the Constitution is still relevant today.
- Information from Medford Public Schools