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SECOND PLACE HS ESSAY CONTEST WINNER:

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Fletcher Dunham, Boardman High School, Youngstown, OH

Making Friends with Enemies

Since the beginning of time, mankind had been solving its problems one at a time. We discovered fire, invented the wheel, and so on until we started tackling bigger problems like world hunger and diseases. There have always been problems with the world and there will always be people trying to solve them. But not every problem can be taken on alone. From broken cookie jars to broken countries, sometimes people need a little help in solving their problems. And for many people it is human nature to want to assist someone if they are having trouble. Of course there are exceptions, but usually if someone likes another person they will want to help them out. Or sometimes it could be someone that they don’t even know and therefore don’t have an opinion about. But what happens if the opportunity presents itself for people to work together towards solving a problem who completely disagree with each other?

There have been a multitude of instances where clashing opinions and disagreements have had to have been overcome in order to serve a greater purpose. An example of this on a grander scale is World War II, where countries of different religions, political systems, and ideals in general had to band together to take down a common enemy. I’m sure there were instances of spats between the Allied powers such as maybe an American troop who wasn’t quite over the whole slavery business not being too happy about fighting alongside an Ethiopian man. Regardless of what these differences were the Allies bonded together as a group of people with one goal: stopping the attempted Nazi takeover of the world. And stop it they did.

But World War II wasn’t the only instance where people of conflicting beliefs overcame their differences in pursuit of a greater goal. Another instance of this phenomenon was during the Civil Rights Movement when people of different cultures, backgrounds, and races came together to fight against the unfair inequality of blacks and whites. There were people of different religions who put all of that behind them in support of what was right. And what was right at that time was fighting for the equal treatment of all races. White and black people both even put themselves in danger in support of each other. Most white people who supported the blacks would have been beat up, and the blacks would have been beat up simply for being black. But that didn’t stop them from achieving their goal of desegregation and freedom. They joined together to overcome their problem and the world was a better place because of it.

Taking a look at things on a smaller scale, we can see this idea of unity despite differences on sports teams from Little League all the way up to the NFL. I have personally experienced this situation on my eighth grade football team. I was one of the starting wide receivers and although I was more of a blocking tight end than anything else I still had some decent hands and was fast enough to get by. The issue was that I didn’t along very well with our quarterback. We had had girls come between us and other (in retrospect, petty) middle school issues that caused us to not be the best of friends. We didn’t really communicate much at all, and when we did it was usually to point out mistakes that the other had made or some kind of cutting remark. Despite this our team was successful and we were having a great season, going undefeated until we came to a game where we were facing a team who hadn’t been beaten in three years. The buildup of excitement going into this game was overwhelming. Everyone was so excited to have a chance to try and knock off the undefeated team. Before the game while we were warming up I went over to our quarterback and said something along the lines of “Look man, I know we’ve had our problems in the past, but let’s try and put those aside for just this one night and get our team this win.” He agreed, and we went on to win the game by one point. How was that one point scored? On a floating, corner of the end zone pass from John (our quarterback) to yours truly to complete a two-point conversion and eventually win the game. We went undefeated that season. And consequently we went on to become good friends to this day.

Now I know that this sounds like a lot of cliché sports movies out there, but it is proof that in my life I have experienced the same thing that so many other people, including the soldiers of World War II, have experienced: the overcoming of differences in pursuit of a greater goal. Our problem was that this team was very talented, and we put aside our differences so that together we could achieve more than we ever could have if we would have continued to bicker and argue.

I think that deep down all people have the innate urge to help others in need and want to be helped by others in the same way. The saying “two heads are better than one” illustrates this idea of being better as a group than as an individual. Of course there are exceptions, but I think that in most cases problems are much more easily overcome with someone standing by your side. The world seems to be improving in this aspect, and every day we are finding new reasons to put aside our differences to make our world a better place. I have high hopes that one day all differences will be put aside, and when that happens, the problems we face had better be ready for the fight of their lives.


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EDUCATION PROJECTS:

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Student Travel – WWII Educational Tours
High school and college students, learn the leadership principles that helped win WWII on a trip to France or during a weeklong residential program in New Orleans. College credit is available, and space is limited.

See You Next Year! HS Yearbooks from WWII
Collected from across the United States, the words and pictures of these yearbooks present a new opportunity to experience the many challenges, setbacks and triumphs of the war through the eyes of America’s youth.

The Victory Gardens of WWII
Visit the Classroom Victory Garden Project website to learn about food production during WWII, find lesson plans and activities for elementary students, get tips for starting your own garden and try out simple Victory Garden recipes!

The Science and Technology of WWII
Visit our new interactive website to learn about wartime technical and scientific advances that forever changed our world. Incorporates STEM principles to use in the classroom.

Kids Corner: Fun and Games!
Make your own propaganda posters, test your memory, solve puzzles and more! Learn about World War II and have fun at the same time.

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