“Is our democracy at risk? If so, what is the greatest threat? What should we do about it?”
In a local environment where books are banned, students are silenced or suspended for advocating for their rights, anti-democratic extremists are excused or exalted, voting-suppression is on the rise and duly conducted elections are challenged on fabricated grounds, the questions are as current as they are urgent.
If you’re a high school student in Flagler or Volusia counties, here’s your chance to answer in an original essay of up to 2,000 words and participate in the ACLU of Florida Volusia/Flagler Chapter’s first Annual “Cary Ragsdale Future Voter’s Essay Contest.” (Email essays with Subject Heading of “Student Essay” to [email protected]
by April 4.)
The question–“Is our democracy at risk”–is broadly posed and may address or connect local, state and national issues–as long as the arguments are well argued, soundly sourced and elegantly written. Members of the ACLU will form the judges’ panel.
Three finalists will be selected. The first place winner will have a cash prize of $500, second place will receive $250, and third place will receive $100. FlaglerLive is sponsoring the cash prizes.
Each finalist will receive two complimentary tickets to the Volusia/Flagler ACLU’s 2022 Annual Meeting and Banquet at the Halifax River Yacht Club at 6 p.m. on April 24. All submitted essays will be on display, all the finalists will be recognized, and of course the winners will be announced. The winners will be invited to read their essays to the audience that evening. The three top winners’ essays will be published in FlaglerLive.
The keynote speaker at the annual meeting and banquet will be Daniel Tilley, Legal Director of the ACLU of Florida.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is the nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States. The organization is non-partisan, famously defending the rights of dissenters all the way back to the Palmer raids of 1920 in the first Red Scare under the Wilson Administration, defending science in the Scopes trial of 1925, fighting against the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, protecting student speech as fervently as the ACLUY protected the rights of the neo-Nazis to march (in a 1978 case), opposing police-state surveillance tactics since the start of the drug war in 1973 and intensifying since 9/11, helping LGBTQ Americans serve in the armed forces openly, fighting the Trump administration’s Muslim ban in 2017, and today fighting against a return of voter-suppression laws, a crackdown on reproductive rights, and Florida’s censoring of protected speech in classrooms and the workplace, among many cases.
The contest is named for Cary Ragsdale, the writer, teacher, Vietnam veteran and advocate for felons seeking to re-enter society, the poor and the homeless. He joined the ACLU and challenged local ordinances that further marginalized or criminalized the homeless. In a book he wrote near the end of his life he all but described himself: “He can choose to be kind and compassionate, or he can choose an alternative course. He can choose to come to the aid of others in distress, or he can ignore their troubles and think only of himself. He can choose to ignore bullying behavior when he encounters it, or he can choose to take a clear moral stand against that kind of conduct.”
To participate in the Volusia/Flagler ACLU Essay Contest, you must be a high school student in either of the two counties. Email essays with Subject Heading of “Student Essay” to [email protected] by April 4.
Note: this piece was originally published on March 4. It is being re-published ahead of the contest deadline.
Our Constitutional Republic is always at risk! Ben Franklin has been attributed as replying to a question,”a republic, if you can keep it”.
Deborah Coffey says
But right now, we are sitting on the razor’s edge between democracy and fascism. Republicans want fascism; Democrats want democracy. It’s time to be panicked and to choose wisely.
Yup, the Republicans want to control every aspect of your life. Like healthcare, guns, what you say or think………
You have it backwards. It’s the Democrats that want to control every aspect of your life. They are heading this country into communism. The best way to do that is control the media and that’s exactly what they are doing. They started doing that back in 2008.
Sorry, I was being sarcastic.
Yes, republicans DO want to control every aspect of your life. And they LIE – like the obviously false PUTIN-TYPE propaganda that democrats are communist socialists in order to divide the country into ‘us’ vs ‘them’. Someone shouted it out in republicanland leadership so it ‘must be true’!!! BS.
Democrats are NOT socialist communists, but there are PLENTY of republican nazis and white supremist facists who want us to become nazi germany or the old south of the early 1900s. I’ve seen plenty of those recently around Flagler County. The blue and black flags and backwards flying U.S. flags that are supposed to ‘represent’ the United States do NOT – they are a corruption and anti-U.S. and that is what they mean when republicans wear them or fly them. Those ‘flags’ are anti-patriotic, anti-American.
Taking away rights like a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body, how easy or hard it is to vote (GOPers constantly make it harder and ADMITTED that is their intent), the dumbing down by ‘controlling’ what books we can read or comment on, the taking away of cursive writing in schools so kids grown up with have no ‘one of a kind ‘signature’ (a nightmare for future voters who have to ‘match’ their signatures with their ids, etc.), killing off conservation community development plans (bringing in cookie-cutter houses build on top of each other), HOAs who are given the ability to foreclose on your home and take it from you because they don’t like the height of your bushes or the color of your home, higher credit card fees that cost businesses and thus shoppers, etc.
Diana LeBrun says
Thank you FlaglerLive and the Volusia/Flagler ACLU.
What a great essay contest. I am looking forward to reading all that you publish. Good luck to the students.
The essay contest is one of the activities that we do that I’m proudest of…an outreach to
Thank You Concerned Voter. . . you are most certainly right on!
It’s the Republicans who are banning books, doing all they can to discourage ALL citizens from voting while creating distrust in our “proven” election process, taking away women’s rights to control their own bodies, stopping gun safety regulations, stopping the teaching of historical facts regarding slavery, resisting all efforts to combat climate change, resisting health safety measures like masking and even vaccines. . . in addition to creating total “obstruction” to ALL legislation that would assist working families who are struggling.
Meanwhile the majority of Republicans “still” believe the “BIG LIE” that trump was re-elected. . . with ZERO evidence to back up their ridiculous claims! They continue to support horrific trump, the only president to be “IMPEACHED TWICE”. . . in addition to enticing an insurrection against our country! A morally corrupt man who is a proven pathological lier, a sexual predator with many accusations against him, a terrible businessman who has declared multiple bankruptcies, and who has declared Putin to be a genius for attacking Ukraine, while he held back aid and tried to bribe Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy to get dirt on Hillary Clinton and the Bidens.
All of this adds up to a Republican “CULT” creating the destruction of our democracy while embracing complete “facism”!
If someone pays attention the the things that are being said and the goings on in Putin’s war, it becomes more and more pronounced how Trump and Putin think alike. Put tells lies and propaganda to the Russian people, so does Trump. Putin commits a lot of fraud such as telling the gov’t he lives in an 800 sq ft apartment when his summer home is a gigantic mansion covering 90.000 sq ft!! Sound familiar? Putin grifts money from the oligarchs, Trump grifts it from foolish supporters. Putin punishes people who disagree with him, so does Trump/ It goes on and on.
The one thing Trump hasn’t done is kill masses of people. However, he did deliberately spread covid to a lot of people at the Rose Garden events. However, if he gets elected again, anything can happen , as he will be out for revenge on a whole lot of people. Our future generation will be living with it for a lot of years. If Trump hadn’t been elected in 2016, we would’ve had a different president and it would not have been Biden. If Trump hadn’t been elected, he would not have have gone overseas and pissed off China and mess with North Korea, who now, all of a sudden has enough money to build nuclear weapons and China is getting revenge on us because of Trump’s tirades and trade war. If China and Russia decide to join and unite forces, watch out USA.
Michael Cocchiola says
Did I win?