Jared Velasquez, a 2021 graduate from Heritage High, was awarded the American Legion District 9’s “Mits Ideishi Memorial Essay Competition”. He was presented a check for $500.00 at the Oakley Veterans Memorial by Frank Rehm Vice President, District 9 Riders.
Here is a copy of the essay:
Mits Ideishi Memorial Scholarship Essay
To understand a citizen’s responsibilities to America, one must know the history of America and the democratic principles that our forefathers sacrificed their lives for. From the dumping of tea in the Boston Harbor to Thomas Jefferson’s penning of the Declaration of Independence; from the American struggle to free themselves of Britain’s monarchic rule to British General Charles Cornwallis’ surrender to General George Washington at Yorktown, the Founding Fathers have fought for democratic principles and a voice of their own in government. We have responsibilities as American citizens because our forefathers fought to create, protect, and uphold these principles. As American citizens, we have to respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of each other, stay informed on issues that affect our community, and serve our government.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states that the government cannot prohibit the practice of religion, speech, assembly, or petition. As citizens of the United States, we must uphold these values. In recent times, we have failed to protect these fundamental principles and to respect our fellow man. This integral issue in society has been exasperated by the Fourth Estate, the media. These media outlets are driven by profit to divide our country. By creating sensational and divisive headlines, the media could affirm and radicalize beliefs which extremizes individuals and creates a fiercely loyal and very profitable base. Although our democracy is protected by the Department of Justice and the American legal system, the media can influence the court of public opinion, which can have dangerous consequences to our democracy. As citizens of this great country, we should be better and strive for cooperation, because at the end of the day, we are all Americans. We have to apply critical thinking to our news sources and always delve deeper into topics before making conclusions. We need to understand the perspective of the other side and only treat them as people with opposing opinions. Understanding between Americans and respect for rights, beliefs, and opinions will only strengthen our democracy and uphold the values that our forefathers have fought for.
As participants of American democracy, it is up to us to stay informed on issues that affect our community. We cannot stay complacent and sit idly by in an ever-changing world. Even if you choose not to involve yourself in politics, politics will still involve itself in your life. At the very least, you should take note of local issues in your community. Your community is what you make of it and being involved in the democratic political process helps you change it. That is what is so special about a democracy: you and your voice has an impact on the wider world around you. If you didn’t involve yourself in the political process, then there is no one else to blame but yourself if something you disagree upon comes into motion.
For over 40 years, my grandfather has been in service to the United States government. Born in poverty in the Philippines, he enlisted in the United States Navy at the end of the Korean War in 1953. He served as a Chief Petty Officer until he retired in the aftermath of the Vietnam War in 1975. After serving in the Navy, he worked as a mail carrier for the United States Postal Service in San Jose for 20 years and was active in the local American Legion. For most of my grandfather’s life, he has faithfully served the United States government and has consistently answered the call to duty. No matter what your political beliefs or opinions are, if America calls you to serve, it is your duty as an American citizen to serve. There are other ways in which a regular citizen can uphold American values. The government can ask you to serve jury duty. Serving on a jury upholds the basic American principles of fairness and justice. Being on a jury with my fellow peers is a great honor. I, myself, have witnessed my parents serve in jury duty and I will do anything in my power to serve, too. However, by far the most important duty of an American citizen is to exercise their right to vote. This ability is the very essence of democracy and the very foundation that America was built on. It gives the powerless a voice that can echo throughout society. The right to vote has been protected and upheld since the inception of the United States Constitution. A vote should never be taken for granted; a person who doesn’t vote is akin to throwing their voice away.
I know that my grandfather is watching me from Heaven and I am proud to be carrying on his legacy by going to college. His sacrifices, and the sacrifices of the forefathers of America, have reminded me of my duties and responsibilities as an American citizen. As a person who loves America dearly, I will always respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of my fellow peers. I will always be involved and stay informed in my community to make it a better place to live in. Finally, if I am ever called to duty, whether it be in the military, on the jury, or just to vote, I will not hesitate to serve.