THIRD PLACE HS ESSAY CONTEST WINNER:
Ishan Mazumdar, West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South, West Windsor, NJ
The Greater Good
The birth of a nation is a beautiful event. It is usually preceded by bloodshed and animosity, hatred and carnage, and yet people still manage to hold on to hope. When our country was created, our Founding Fathers were hopeful that they were creating a country that would oppose tyranny, a country that would champion the ideals of democracy. It is not improbable to imagine that had they seen World War II, they might have opposed the fact that we sided with the tyrant Joseph Stalin. The Founding Fathers might have felt that siding with Stalin was tantamount to reneging on the principles on which our country was made. I, however, believe that siding with Stalin was a necessary evil. Just as the Founding Fathers had accepted war as a necessary evil to achieve independence, siding with Stalin was a necessary evil to defeat Hitler. A motif that repeats in history and is represented in all levels of human existence, whether it be between nations or between next-door-neighbors, is that people who disagree often have similar, if not the same, goals. The disagreements must be forgotten in order to achieve the greater good.
Everyone has experiences with disagreement, and I am no exception. In general I am not a contentious person, yet I have numerous times had furious “discussions” (which inevitably became arguments) with my parents on the issue of college. Over the years my parents have insisted that I try out for a school team in a sport, although I am not an athletic person, because they are convinced that the Ivy League institutions are more likely to accept me if I am on a school sports team. My parents are of the opinion that a high school student’s success is directly proportional to the prestige of the college he/she gets admitted to. I disagree. I believe that a student’s success is measured by what they do in order to pursue excellence. Although our methods are different, my parents and I all have the same goal: trying to make sure that I have a successful future. When we realized that arguing will not help us achieve our goal, we realized that compromise was the only option. In order to placate my parents, I have joined school teams, although not in sports. I have joined the Science Olympiad team, which from looking at the intensity with which students practice can easily be called a “sports” team. On the other hand, my parents realized that I would be able to more prosperously pursue excellence if I am on an academic team than if I am on a sports team. Our arguments are less frequent now, because my parents and I have come to a compromise.
“How can people who disagree still work together to solve a problem?” If we were asked to provide a one-word answer to the question, the answer would be absurdly obvious: compromise. But what does “compromise” actually mean? Compromise could mean anything from agreeing with someone you had a petty argument with, to in the case of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, sitting next to a murderer like Joseph Stalin. The ultimate difficulty with compromise is not coming to terms with someone you disagree with, but rather coming to terms with yourself that you are compromising with someone whose beliefs differ from your own. It is nearly impossible for the average human being to understand how compromising with Stalin must have impacted FDR’s belief in his own morality. Both Hitler and Stalin were ruthless tyrants. Both Hitler and Stalin murdered millions of people. The only way FDR could have appeased his conscience about supporting Stalin is that Hitler’s expansionist policies threatened to topple world order. Essentially FDR had to choose the lesser of two evils.
The most prevalent dichotomy that exists in America today is the division of American politics into Democrat and Republican. I am not a politically inclined person, but with the passing of the recent Presidential Election, even I started to watch the news to learn more about national politics. It is hard to not notice the political turmoil in Washington. Republicans and Democrats fervently fight to have their voices heard, to make their opinions known. They do not hesitate to point out the flaws in each others arguments. The incessant fighting has stagnated Congress, and decisions are not being made. The problem is that there is a severe dearth of compromises. While I am sure many people would disagree with me, I can say with conviction that compromise is possible. A compromise would be impossible if Democrats and Republicans disagreed on everything, but they do not. A greater good exists. All Americans, whether Republican or Democrat or affiliated to a minor political party or nonpartisan like me, want their country to prosper. Since a common goal exists between both political parties, since both parties want America to prosper, there is always hope that compromises will come. Democrats and Republicans will need to accept each others demands; they will need to go against some of their own beliefs, and then compromise will come.
It is human nature to stand by our beliefs. We as a species find it nearly impossible to part with our cherished ideas about how the world should be. Our views dictate our being. We are constantly making decisions, and to make those decisions we have ideas to fall back on. Since everyone has a set of beliefs, it would be impossible for everyone to agree on everything. Disagreements will persist for eternity. While differences in opinion allow us to possess individuality, it also spawns discontent. Therefore, compromise is a necessity. Sometimes we must turn back on our beliefs. Sometimes we must believe in the greater good.
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.