The Bill of Rights Institute in Arlington, Va., recently held an essay contest for high school students on the topic: ”What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American?” Over 50,000 students participated from all 50 states and U.S. territories. The winners and runners-up received cash prizes, with $5,000 awarded to each regional first-place winner. Eagle Publishing was proud to be one of the sponsors. HumanEvents.com will be publishing the top nine winning essays over the next two weeks. This is the second showcased essay.
"Responsibility:" Most of us frequently hear this word from our parents, grandparents, older brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, teachers, mentors, bosses, and, essentially, from anyone with more experience than we have. However, as many of us try to evade the principle of the word, we forget that without it our country would not stand where it does today. Without it, the Unites States would not be a leading nation in the medical, science, and technology fields; neither would it be able to offer such great stability and comfortable way of living to its residents. Responsibility is what takes us from wanting to do something to applying ourselves and achieving it. With responsibility and determination, we are able to do nearly anything. Likewise, without responsibility we are able to destroy everything. Our country’s success reflects back to the exceptional sense of responsibility that its creators and their successors possessed. It does not matter whether they were clever, brave, or passionate, because if they lacked responsibility all of these qualities would be carried in vain.
Responsibility has been embedded in our country since its beginning. The Declaration of Independence clearly states that we, as citizens, have to take pride in our country and be responsible for its progression or—if we are careless—for its degradation. The Declaration states that "whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends…, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." This quote demonstrates the responsibility that all Americans have. We are responsible for maintaining a righteous government that attends to all our needs, including happiness and freedom. If the government, or any other obstacle, should interfere with our rights, liberty, or happiness, we must take responsibility and resolve the problem. The original colonies demonstrated responsibility as they, upon realizing the gravity of their situation, decided to act and separate from Great Britain.
George Washington remarkably embodies this civic value. Washington demonstrated an early sense of responsibility, running his family’s farm at a young age. He was an avid fighter for his country’s liberation from Great Britain’s oppression. Later, as the president, he adhered to his responsibilities and emphasized the dangers of being involved in foreign wars. He reminded his fellow citizens of their responsibility to guarantee their continual freedom and told them to base their actions on "the free Constitution, which [was] the work of [their] hands." Moreover, he communicated to them that "every citizen who enjoyed the protection of a free government, owed not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defense of it." This quote reveals Washington’s keen appreciation of the responsibility that every American has to his or her country. George Washington personified responsibility like few have done; his example of accountability should be followed by all.
Indisputably, responsibility is the conductor of success, which in turn stimulates our country’s continual freedom and welfare. Winston Churchill once said that "responsibility is the price of greatness," and we as Americans must loyally pay this price in order to ensure our future success. On my part, I exploit my potential to its greatest extent to help my family and community. I contribute to my sister’s learning by teaching and reinforcing the academic material she has covered in school. I also volunteered at an elementary school, where I helped enhance the children’s learning experience by showing them the importance of responsibility and the promising future they would have if they adhered to it. Additionally, I participated with the American Cancer Society to help raise funds for cancer research. Being healthy and competent gives me the responsibility to help those who are not as privileged. With relentless determination and endeavor, my team raised over one thousand dollars, and the event itself raised over seven thousand. I never avoid my responsibilities because I know that by being responsible, I am helping my country and forging an example for the younger generation. Responsibility, organization, and development go hand-in-hand, and lead us to more opportunities and a superior future. That is what being an American means to me.