2015-16 Youth of the Year Essay

Citizen’s Role in Building a Strong America

By Chris Warfield

America was built off of the power of the people, and has thrived off of that power since 1776. Through the ups and the downs, whether that be the World Wars, Gilded Age, ending of slavery, or Great Depression, the core of America is its people. With many uncertain futures to face, such as foreign affairs or climate change, American citizens are once again placed in the spotlight as the hope and answer to solving these issues and progressing. The citizen’s role in maintaining and advancing America is defined by an increase in education and awareness.

In a society that places a premium on skilled jobs, due to many unskilled jobs being replaced by technology, education is of vital importance and must not be overlooked in the near future. Our nation’s struggling public school system, paired with outrageous college prices and the impending student debt, make for issues when it comes to educating the future of America. The public school system has seen a downturn of production for a variety of reasons, whether that be funding, a lack of teachers, a lack of a support group, or students simply not caring. The solution to motivating these students is to place positive role models in their lives that inspire them to achieve their best, as many of today’s students are influenced by celebrities and idols that preach violent, obscene, and outlandish ideas. While this can only do so much, a restoration must be made to reinvent the idea of parenting, discipline, and care as these seems to be absent in a lot of youth’s lives. If these students envelop the philosophy of pushing themselves to the limit and educating themselves to prepare themselves to lead America as workers, parents, community members, politicians, etc. we will see true progression in our nature. These may ideas are targeted towards the life of the student themselves, but true education in today’s world is defined by the resources students have available to them. Students HAVE to have experience on computers to be successful at the next level, meaning computer labs, tablets, wifi, printers, SmartBoards, and virtually every aspect of technology must be available to them to have a chance to adapt to the skills valued in the working world. With these things in place, students will have the knowledge necessary for college, which brings us the next issue. In America, your qualifications and assets are summarized by the degree you have. Having a degree gives you a much better chance of landing a job, while lacking one can make the journey that much harder. The high demand for college education leaves much to be desired due to the outrageous expense (between paying what you can and taking out loans), which potentially discourages many people from going. A solution to this, which has already been set in motion, is to offer free community college. While full 4 year programs would be very hard to fund, programs like TN Promise allow people to meet certain requirements, and if these are met, go on to get their Associate’s Degree without paying for tuition. This benefits both parties as these people are now more valuable to the workforce, which is the whole purpose that an educational reform needs to happen to lead to a stronger America.

Looking past education, our citizens simply need to be more aware of what is happening in America and how it can impact them. While awareness can cover many different lenses, important areas include: awareness about the environment, violence, and politics. In an America that used to be home to vast landscapes, forests, mountains, and whatever other geographical example your mind should wander to, we now find large cities, polluted water, industrialization, deforestation, oil drilling, a never ending list of environmental issues. While this is mandatory to feed our rate of consumption as a whole, there must be some type of balance put in place. Alternate energy, pollution reduction, and more effective waste disposal are all questions we face, once again cementing the importance of educating our citizens as technological innovations, such as solar panels, may be the answer. While implementation of these solutions may be years down the road, the short term goal should be simply to make citizens aware of what is happening around them. While these are domestic issues (primarily to relate back to a strong America), climate change must also be addressed in this same fashion to ensure that there IS an America to call home in the far future. Glaciers melting, drought, and natural disasters may be beyond the ability of technology to solve, but informing America as a whole of this will surely yield efforts to at least try to adapt to what the future could hold. Mother Nature is undefeated, and must be managed to expand. The most effective way to stop America from growing is to eliminate its population, which unfortunately seems to be the goal of some, more and more every day. Gun violence and domestic terrorism must be placed at the forefront of our attention, as mass shootings and murders not only end the lives of many, but disrupt the peace of mind of all. Taking a backseat to the issue and simply letting it happen is not a choice here, as we need stricter gun regulations, a crackdown on the black market, mental health evaluations, and guidance to steer many away from pursuing this violent lifestyle. Rappers, athletes, politicians, actors, and other people that have influence need to step up and lead us out of this, as it seems that is who our American children listen to. While gun violence is a major issue in today’s society, it also ties into politics, as more regulations need to be put in place to prevent the issue. Politics in America have become a joke, as hardly 60% of our citizens didn’t vote in the 2012 election. Our political interest is stagnant, and many people believe the system is corrupt yet do nothing to voice their opinions and make a change. A drastic change must be made to revitalize American democracy, and spark the former passion that propelled our nation to greatness. This starts with each individual, as their personal liberties and rights must be fought for to be protected. A major step in protecting our past and paving the way for the future is for America to be more aware of what is truly happening around them and how it impacts them.

In a very different America than the past has seen, the 21st century presents many challenges that must be faced. A public school revolution, tuition price changes, and awareness about environmental, political, and violent issues must be approached head on to fix many of the problems we find ourselves in. All of these issues end just as America started; with the people. Our citizens have to be bold and courageous, like our Founders, to protect all we have worked for and establish a stronger, more unified version of our America.

© 2016 by Chris Warfield