Essay winner explores the power of democracy: democracy brings out the best that each person has to offer. It enables us to have our voices resonate freely unrestricted by our government which encourages us to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.
Naderi won the contest. The first part of his winning essay is printed below. The remainder will be printed in next week's Nation's Cities Weekly.
Democracy gives us the power to find our voices. It gives us the ability to recognize what our inner voice beckons us to do in life and the freedom to carry out this calling. Democracy brings out the best that each person has to offer. It enables us to have our voices resonate freely--unrestricted by our government which encourages us to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. Here in the United States, our voices are kept from being unjustly muted because of the First Amendment to the Constitution, which prescribes by law that freedom of speech and religion shall not be infringed. Our founding fathers must have comprehended the extreme importance of exercising the liberty to speak freely, as the initial amendment guarantees this right. This strong, solid foundation these freedom-loving men built has supported this country since its inception. It has caused hope to arise within the hearts of millions who have left their homelands to find a better life in America. It has defined us as a nation of freedom loving individuals where the voices of all can be heard.
Whether the voice is that of a political activist critical of the government, an author, a Jewish rabbi, a Catholic priest, or even a foul-mouthed tapper, these voices are accepted as part of the glorious system of democracy in the United States of America. An artist is free to express his or her ideas without the fear of being imprisoned for his views. Although other people may object to another citizen's beliefs and criticize them with great fervor, the government cannot take legal action against this person. Masses of people may gather together peacefully in a demonstration against a current administration, and so long as they are non-violent, they are free to give the world a piece of their mind. In other countries lacking a democratic form of government, a similar demonstration could easily land the protesters in jail, a torture chamber, or worse--an unmarked mass grave. In 1989, such an example took place in China in Tiananmen Square, when several thousand civilians were massacred because they were demanding democracy. In the United States, we can not only freely state our opinions, but significantly influence the affairs of the government.
Voting plays a vital role in the United States' democracy. Voting is the voice of the people. Americans who have lived eighteen years or longer are able to have each of their individual voices heard by casting a vote for the person who they believe should hold a public office. This voting process takes place on a variety of levels, from electing the mayor of a city to selecting the next president of the United States of America. Two major political parties--Democrats and Republicans--coexist with opposing viewpoints on many subjects, yet they are able to respectfully disagree and work together--for the most part. Those who hold power are elected because they represent the collective voice of the majority. It is for this reason that democracy is government by the people, of the people, and for the people.
People from around the world come to the United Stales to find their voices. One such immigrant was my father, Ali Naderi, who emigrated from Iran to this country in 1971. At the time, the Shah ruled Iran. While in his native country, if he expressed negative opinions towards the Shah's regime, he could be easily put into jail or even tortured by the Shah's secret police. In fact, he knew an unfortunate man back home, a classmate of his in high school, who had been tortured because he had openly disagreed with the Shah's policies. He knew that was not a world in which he wanted to live. In America, he observed the effect freedom had on the people. He noticed that on television, people were able to freely state their negative opinions about the government or the President without apprehension. Life was better in the United States. Although my father had to work hard to live in this country, he enjoyed the many freedoms not granted to him back home. Ali Naderi took full advantage of his voting rights once he became a naturalized citizen, exercising the privilege to use his voice freely to declare his views on how he felt the government should be.