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Clarke Senior wins Iowa Voice of Democracy VFW competition

Pictured from left are Department Commander Carol Whitmore, VFW National Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief William Schmitz, Evan Hagen, VFW Auxiliary National Junior Vice President Sandra Onstwedder and VFW Auxiliary Department President Wilma Thurnau-Fickess
Pictured from left are Department Commander Carol Whitmore, VFW National Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief William Schmitz, Evan Hagen, VFW Auxiliary National Junior Vice President Sandra Onstwedder and VFW Auxiliary Department President Wilma Thurnau-Fickess

Clarke senior Evan Hagen won first in the state for his VFW Voice of Democracy essay Jan. 19. Hagen now has the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. in March with all the other state winners from around the county. All the state essay winners have the chance to earn a $30,000 scholarship.

Hagen is most excited about traveling to Washington D.C. to see all the history of the capital city.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the White House, the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial and the changing of the Guard. Also, I'm excited to meet the other state winners," said Hagen.

Hagen's essay shows a lot of inspiration and patriotism. 2018 was the first year that Hagen was able to vote and he was excited for the opportunity.

"Since I was old enough to remember, my parents have always taken me to the voting booth during elections, so when I turned 18 this year I was excited to cast my ballot. When I read about the Voice of Democracy competition this past year and the prompt was 'Why My Vote Matters', it seemed like a pretty straight forward answer for me," said Hagen.

Below is Hagen's state winning essay.

Voice of Democracy—Why My Vote Matters

Our 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln once said, “The people are the rightful masters of both congresses and courts, not to overturn the constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert it.” As masters and citizens of our country it is our civic duty to vote. Some will say it’s a right, and it is. Others will say it’s a privilege, and it is, but it most definitely is our civic duty. While it’s necessary to keep our government in check, it’s also our obligation to ourselves not only as citizens of the United States, but as inhabitants of the world to use this right to be a voice for those who are either oppressed or simply don’t have the ability to vote. Unlike many others, we have been given the chance to shape our economic, social, and foreign policy.

At age 4, I couldn’t wait to turn 5. I was eager to go to school like my older brother—he had all the freedoms it seemed. I soon learned that freedom came with a price in the form of schoolwork! At age 16, I couldn’t wait to get my driver’s license. The freedom I would have to be able to escape the “tyranny” of my parents would be amazing. That lesson came too with the realization that gas is not cheap! By the time I turned 18, I finally realized that everything in this world comes with a price in the form of some contribution. Every freedom I’m afforded as a citizen of the country has come with great peril. My right to vote in the United States is deeply intertwined with sacrifice. However, in return I’m also allowed many choices and much freedom. Voting is my way of saying “Thank You” to those who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice for my right to have a voice in our democracy.

I owe my participation in our electoral process first and foremost to myself, but also to my brother—the Marine, my uncle—also a Marine, my uncle—the Retired Air Force Colonel, my uncle—the Salty Dog, my grandfathers—veterans of the Army, and the countless others who over the course of history have served our country faithfully, dutifully, and sacrificed so much to give me this right. My vote matters because I’m no longer a child and I understand the importance of actively participating in my life. It matters because I matter and they matter.

The United States is a federal republic and a constitutional representative democracy. In the United States, only a fraction of the population exercises their right to vote. Choosing not to vote is choosing not to participate in influencing the laws governing our lives whether that be at the local, state or national level. It is human nature to want to be free and to govern ourselves. The nature of our democracy is dependent upon the voice of the people. I am ONE of those people!

Complacency is not an option if I want to have an opinion. My vote is not a waste regardless of those who might say otherwise. It’s simply unrealistic to think I don’t have an obligation to participate in the process if I want to have a voice. My vote is the voice of my conscience and not someone else’s politics. My vote can be a tool that directly affects an initiative or to elect a representative who will do that for me. It is a way to choose people I believe will not only represent my beliefs but a chance to elect someone who will work towards finding common ground when my beliefs come in conflict with others. It’s a necessary element to ensure our government works in an effective manner serving all citizens, as well as treating all of humanity with respect and decency.

You as why my vote matters? You might as well ask why my freedom matters or why I enjoy roads to drive on, lakes to swim in, or a place to live—all these come as a result of the laws of our country, and voting is my chance to help change these laws. It matters because the alternative to NOT speak up with my vote is to allow others to make decisions and choices for me. I’m no longer a child, but it would be foolish of me to ignore the lessons of my childhood and choose not to participate in creating the very rules that govern my life. How I choose to contribute is my choice, but I must contribute. My right to vote is my chance to have a voice in shaping the laws that govern the freedoms I enjoy.

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