Monday, February 3, 2014

Essay Contest Submission by Kylie Guymon - 9th Grade

"What lessons should Americans today draw from the Gettysburg Address?"

By Kylie Guymon- 9th Grade

One hundred and fifty one years ago Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address during the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery.  That's where it got it's name. The cemetery was actually a portion of the battle-field dedicated to those that died.  They were memorializing all 51,000 people that died in the war over slavery.  I imagine it being such a powerful message that everyone in attendance would be in tears.  There are so many incredible lessons that we can learn from this address.

The first lesson is dedicated to the fact that all men are created equal. Last year in 8th grade history class we learned about the Gettysburg address and slavery. We did an activity to better understand what slavery was like.  My history teacher took us into the hall. We were ordered to crawl down the hallway, take off our shoes, do push-ups, and were not allowed to laugh or talk.  I remember my hands being examined to see if I was a hard worker; if my hands were rough or soft, or if I had nail polish on.  My teacher said “What is this on your nails? Is it some kind of fungus?” I tried not to look at him in fear of laughing and being punished to do extra push-ups. We also threw a blue tarp over our stacked  desks and crawled under it. It got really hot under the tarp with 30 students tightly packed under there. It represented the ship that slaves we carried on. The ship was so crowded that the slaves were stacked on top of each other and they had to lie in their own feces.   Food was thrown down to them from the deck above and the slaves on the bottom didn't get food. It was a horrific scene with filthy conditions and starving slaves.  This activity put into perspective what life for slaves was like. Everyone should be treated with respect and equality.

The second lesson I think Lincoln wants us to learn from the address is to become more united as a nation. The Civil War tested our nation to see if the citizens were dedicated in uniting together and enduring to the end.  How do we do that today? I think one way is becoming united through volunteer programs. I have been doing volunteer work at the food bank.  My first day of volunteer work, I was so surprised to see how many family's were struggling in the Heber valley. About 30 families come in each week to get canned food, diapers, baby formulas, and meat. There are also children's shoes, blankets, and jackets that have been donated that people can take home to their families.  The food bank helps to provide food for those that cannot provide for themselves such as those with little income, disabilities, or elderly people.  I am so glad there are programs like the food bank that can help those that are in need.   I think it is important we all do our part to help others and become more united.  I think the food bank is a really amazing program and I am glad that I can be apart of it.

The third lesson is endurance and perseverance.  To me endurance means going through something difficult and never giving up or backing down. The men that fought in the Civil War showed us a great example of endurance.  They fought for our freedom.  Many lost their friends and family, but they never gave up.  They will never be forgotten because now we are all free! My 74 year old grandmother and 77 year old grandfather are also a great example of endurance and perseverance.  My grandparents own a dairy farm.  They wake up at 3:00 AM every morning to herd the cows from the field into the barn.  Then it takes 4 hours to milk 75 cows.  No matter how dark, snowy, rainy, hot, or cold it is, my grandma is always at the barn by my grandpa's side.  They feed the calves buckets of milk often carrying four at a time.  After morning chores are done, my grandparents go back and do it again at 3:00 PM in the afternoon.  During the summer I often go help feed the calves and milk the cows. It really is a lot of work!  My grandparents have shown me great endurance and devotion, never missing a day.

Lincoln says “that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” The fourth lesson we can learn from the Gettysburg address is that our government is extremely important. The government helps keep peace and harmony throughout the land. If we didn't have a government structure, imagine what a chaotic world it would be.  Honest, fair, responsible government leaders are vastly significant.  I wonder how Lincoln would feel about our politicians today?  That is why it is so crucial that each person votes at election time.  Every vote counts!

The fifth lesson I have learned from the Gettysburg Address is the power of words.  Words can discourage people or build them up.  Words can be written down and documented. Words can form rules. They are how we communicate with other people.  We say the Pledge of Allegiance every day at school. Those words mean something.  Abraham Lincoln's 272 words will always be remembered.  He kept his message short and sweet, yet it made a powerful impact on our nation in the past, present, and future. 

In  conclusion, there are so many incredible lessons we can learn from this address.  We learn that all men are created equal, the importance of a united nation, endurance and perseverance, the importance of the government, and the power of words. As we follow these lessons, we can become a stronger nation as well as stronger individuals.

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