Voice of Democracy winners are pictured clockwise from top left, Corben McCallum, Dylan Miles, Cash Adler and Ashlyn Marcum.

Voice of Democracy winners celebrate the vote

    Holyoke High School’s top four finalists for Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Voice of Democracy contest presented their speeches on the theme of “Why My Vote Matters” at the school’s Veterans Day celebration Nov. 12.
    Students reflected on the importance of the vote throughout American history, and their speeches honored those who fought and died to defend the civil liberties of all Americans.
    Earning first place was senior Corben McCallum, followed by senior Dylan Miles, sophomore Ashlyn Marcum and senior Cash Adler.

#1 — Corben McCallum
    Everyone matters in America, no matter what walk of life you come from. One of the privileges we get for being citizens of this country is getting the right to vote for what you believe. My vote matters because I am a citizen of this country. I have a right to vote. I believe that my vote matters, even if it seems like a small number in a big pool. I am the future of this country.
    One of the freedoms in our country that others have fought for is that we as people can vote. The 15th Amendment of the United States Constitution allows everyone from our country to vote. It does not matter your race, color, sex or anything of that nature. If you are 18, you are considered eligible to vote. I have seen everyone from old to young, a true mix of people, going to do their civic duty. Everyone who wanted to voice their opinion in the election was there doing so. This is important because everyone in the United States is entitled to support who they want, and doing so really puts emphasis on freedom.  
    To get the right to vote, we as Americans do have several duties we must fulfill. Men must register for the draft the day they turn 18. We are also required to serve on jury duty when called. These are two things I must do as an American, but getting to do these also ensures I get to vote. The possibility of going and risking your life for the country after registering for the draft and the privilege to be on a jury are a small price to pay for the years and years of voting we are able to do. If we are not taking advantage of the rights and freedoms we have as Americans, why do we stay? Voting is one of the biggest privileges we get.

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#2 — Dylan Miles
    Why does my vote matter? It matters because I could be a big reason for the outcome of an election. I could be the reason why we have a new president or senator. My vote matters. Then I think about voting. I think of the millions of Americans who were not allowed to vote in the early 1900s. These people who bled like us, hurt like us and were not able to vote because of the color of their skin. These innocent people experienced literacy tests, grandfather clauses and poll taxes so that they were not able to vote. Literacy tests alone excluded 60 percent of African-Americans. That wasn’t just for African-Americans. It was all kinds of different races, and even women were not able to vote in the early 1900s. If these people were allowed to vote there may have been different outcomes for a lot of different elections. This is why my vote and every vote matters. We the people must take time out of our day to go and make a change for not only ourselves but for our country and for what we stand for.
    When we became a democracy we had the right to vote but others didn’t, these people stripped of their rights, African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics and many more races. These people endured years of suffering and discrimination. If these people had the right to vote, I ensure you that there would have been lots of different outcomes of elections. Some of these past presidents could have been someone else. Not all minorities couldn’t vote. Some tried to vote but they had to go through a series of tests, such as literacy tests. These literacy tests were very difficult for anyone who took them. The government tried so hard to get minorities to not vote.
    But that wasn’t the only thing for minorities to go through. They had to go through grandfather clauses which were a clause exempting certain classes of people or things from the requirements of a piece of legislation affecting their previous rights, privileges or practices. This is the reason people of other ethnicities couldn’t vote in the early- to mid-1900s. That needed to change, and it finally did in 1965, when they passed the 24th Amendment.

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#3 — Ashlyn Marcum
    1764, a world strongly run by monarchy, almost no democracy existed. The same year, the parliament of England working with King George the III passed the Sugar Act on the United States of America. This act was the first of many to come.
    Taxing all the sugar in the U.S. had caused an outrage. Later only more acts were passed. The colonies were taxed on sugar, paper items and they were forced to allow British soldiers to sleep in their homes. England even continued to tax our tea. The Tea Act not only raised the prices of our tea, it also stated the U.S. could only buy tea from the East India Company.
    On Dec. 16, 1773, the Dartmouth, Beaver and the Eleanor arrived in Griffin’s Wharf, Massachusetts, carrying roughly 9,760 pounds of tea. During the night, enraged colonists snuck onto the vessels dressed as natives throwing 340 chests of tea into the harbor. This resulted in the loss of almost 2 million in the current day dollar.
    This and various other things sparked the Revolutionary War which lasted a total of seven years. With little to no money, our military suffered greatly, the majority of our heroes didn’t have shoes to protect their feet from the snow. Or food at that. A lot of the military had to eat their horses to survive the harsh winters. When it looked like there was no hope, our soldiers still fought with everything they had, and with that, we lost 50,000 men fighting for what was right.
    After the war ended, the right to vote was written into our constitution. We have every person who fought on our side to thank.

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#4 — Cash Adler
    Why does my vote matter? What does it even mean to vote? My vote matters because it influences our world. It is our duty as American citizens. It also benefits and builds our future. Our vote gives us the power to change. It lets us play a larger role in our lives.
    My vote influences the world around me. The voting process allows us to vote for our leaders. As a country we vote for the Commander in Chief, the President of the United States, every four years. The president is who represents our country in the giant community known as the world. He/she is the one who directs our country through the good and the bad and into the future. More locally, we vote for state officials such as governors.
    These leaders help us communicate with our government and president. They also give us more control over what happens within our states and even in our communities. Voting creates influence by allowing for the voting of laws. For example there is Amendment 73. This would have imposed an income tax on those with a household income equal to or higher than $150,000. This amendment would have gone on to help schools financially and improve our education. Not only do we vote on what laws we have, we vote for those who enforce them. We choose those who can be firm and fair. We choose those who are trustworthy and have our best interests in heart. This helps the average person be a part of a process that ensures the peace is kept. This is all a part of our duty as citizens of this great country.
    My vote is a part of my patriotic duty. Voting is not only a tool that allows us to positively affect our world, it is also our responsibility. Ever since the founding of our country we’ve voted. It has been the system our democracy has used to build up and shape our country. It is what brought us our first president General Washington, and it is what helped protect America from becoming another monarchy. During the time of the Revolutionary War our founders fought and died to grant us, their children, the ability to vote and to have a say in our country. We cannot simply cast aside this gift and act as if it is meaningless. It represents the years of hardship that early Americans overcame.

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