For its 2018 Student Essay Contest and in celebration of its recent special exhibit So Ready For Laughter: The Legacy of Bob Hope, The National WWII Museum asked middle and high school students for their thoughts on what they feel the duty of art and artists should be during times of war and conflict.
American entertainer Bob Hope began as an immigrant who came to the United States with his family as a young boy. By the start of World War II, Hope was just emerging as one of America’s most popular radio and film stars. When America went to war in 1941, Hope recognized the need for contributions and responded by entertaining troops, raising funds, and boosting morale. Hope later took his wartime programs on the road to military camps and bases across the country, and then around the world to wherever Americans were serving. Speaking of his efforts, Hope humbly said, “I was offering time and laughs—the men and women fighting the war were offering up their lives. They taught me what sacrifice was all about.”
When asked what they felt the role of art and artists should be during times of war and conflict, more than 1,200 students from 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico responded with thoughts and opinions speaking to the legacy of Bob Hope’s work during World War II and connecting them to the ongoing need for support of our military today.
First-place high school essayist Teddy Tawil from Hunter College High School in New York suggested that above all, artists should hold true to their personal beliefs:
Yet while these celebrities have acted admirably in supporting the troops in the capacity that they could, it is their First Amendment right that they are under no obligation to. Freedom of speech and expression is a central tenet of the democracy for which the United States fights abroad. In the words of actor Tim Robbins, who came under fire for his opposition to the Iraq War, “Isn’t it what we were fighting for there . . . to spread democracy, to give the Iraqis the right to express their opinions in a public forum?” We cannot turn to repression at home to fight oppression elsewhere. We must uphold these values within our country to make them worth fighting for.
Second-place high school essayist Jentry Myers from Van Buren High School in Arkansas used the words of a modern veteran to guide her response:
When you are leaving or are gone on deployment, you would give ANYTHING for just one more moment. Whether it’s just to hear their voice or it’s being able to see their faces, any moment possible is priceless and that is exactly what the USO has given servicemembers, so thank you.” These words were spoken by Sergeant First Class Tyler Arnold, a veteran of multiple combat tours. He was able to attend a fall concert by the USO and Hunter Hayes. Many servicemen and servicewomen state that without celebrities and artists honoring them with their time, the monotony of life in service would be much harder to endure.
Finally, Isabella Barone, our winning seventh grade essayist from Riverdale Middle School in Louisiana sees the artists’ contributions of “time and laugh” as being more than enough:
Therefore, I think art and artists should remain politically neutral. I think this because there should always be laughter especially in times of conflict. I also think the artists’ contributions of “Time and Laughs” are sufficient because it is a good use of time to make people laugh. In conclusion, the duty of artists during times of conflicts should be to make people laugh and be happy! This is still a factor in today’s society as there is still war and conflict that people deal with to this day. Without laughter in people’s lives the world today would be without hope! So, what Bob Hope gave to our troops during WWII was “HOPE”!
Thank you to all of the students who participated in this year’s essay contest and who took the time to consider the words and legacy of Bob Hope, as well as their own place in the world as young Americans. Please enjoy reading all of the winning essays in their entirety at the links below.