CMHS students top A.C.T. essay winners


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Winners of the Clinton County Alliance for Compassion and Truth (ACT) 2022 essay contest were recognized Thursday evening and presented $250 first place and $150 second place prize checks and signed copies of the illustrated edition of “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” by Timothy Snyder. The theme of the contest, open to high school students in the county, was how Snyder’s book addresses the democratic values of compassion and truth. From left are, front row, Clinton-Massie senior Sarah Norton, second-place winner; Clinton-Massie sophomore Danica Henderson, first-place winner; and ACT essay committee member Christine Snyder; and, back, essay committee members Mary Thomas Watts and Elaine Silverstrim, ACT president.

Winners of the Clinton County Alliance for Compassion and Truth (ACT) 2022 essay contest were recognized Thursday evening and presented $250 first place and $150 second place prize checks and signed copies of the illustrated edition of “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” by Timothy Snyder. The theme of the contest, open to high school students in the county, was how Snyder’s book addresses the democratic values of compassion and truth. From left are, front row, Clinton-Massie senior Sarah Norton, second-place winner; Clinton-Massie sophomore Danica Henderson, first-place winner; and ACT essay committee member Christine Snyder; and, back, essay committee members Mary Thomas Watts and Elaine Silverstrim, ACT president.


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Danica Henderson, a sophomore at Clinton-Massie High School, won first place in the Clinton County Alliance for Compassion and Truth (A.C.T.) essay contest for this essay on Chapter Four of Timothy Snyders’s book, “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.” Below is her essay:

“Why do we remain silent while those around us suffer? A question long pondered by scientists and political leaders alike, it poses not just an obstacle to progress, but also to democracy. Our style of government is ruled by the people, which therefore means it can collapse by the people as well.

“As we’ve witnessed, collective inaction can be as costly as those who promote hatred and prejudice. While ignoring corrupt behavior may appear to be a way to maintain structure or a version of peace, it is not and will never be sustained. Doing nothing in the face of tyranny will only give fuel to the fire that will eventually incinerate you.

“Actions allowed without hindrance are in fact support. We do not enjoy thinking about ourselves as enablers. But when we turn a blind eye to those in distress, is that not exactly what we are doing? Giving the oppressors more opportunity to strike?

“As Timothy Snyder writes in ‘On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century’: ‘In the politics of the everyday, our words and gestures, or their absence, count very much.’ Time and time again, far too many examples are shown throughout history of these words ringing true. Referring back to the time of our Founding Fathers, the colonists were somewhat divided into two branches: the Patriots and the Loyalists. While each had their separate motives, there is a reason we bestow heroism to the Patriots. They were the group willing to be outspoken against British oppression, against a tyrannical power.

“We often paint a portrait of Loyalists being cowards, yet they were the ones who wished everything to stay the same. Due to their inaction, they allowed the British government to further upend the rights of the people, held up by the ideals of John Locke and Enlightenment Era ideals. The lesson learned? Our individual choices, no matter the visible significance, influence our political climate and the world around us as a whole.

“The manner in which we portray our alleged loyalties is as salient as the loyalties themselves. Symbols are meaningful even if there is no ill intent. The spread of political symbols dates far back into history of world civilization, often being utilized as a tool of oppression. As Snyder warns in ‘On Tyranny’” ‘You might one day be offered the opportunity to display symbols of loyalty. Make sure that such symbols include your fellow citizens rather than exclude them.’

“It would be easier to accept what we are told, without consideration for truthfulness. Easy to agree with an individual’s or group’s positions, without pausing to consider the implications. As so eloquently put by James Williams Fulbright, ‘In a democracy, dissent is an act of faith.’ In order to maintain our democracy, we must be willing to voice objections in the wake of injustice. And be mindful enough to act with great care towards any allegiance we claim to support.

“So, this question remains: How do we spark change as opposed to complicity? As taken from history, it is not to answer hatred with hatred. But rather, to take a step back, and react with empathy and honesty. To admit our wrongdoings, instead of attempting to conceal. To take responsibility, and be diligent in our efforts to hold those in power accountable, regardless of political standing.

“In reference to the upholding of our great nation, we must not let division spread amongst ourselves. We must hold each other liable, not from a place of selfishness, but rather one of compassion. The end of chapter four of ‘On Tyranny’ poses a formidable question: ‘What happens (asked Haven) if no one plays the game?’

“Well, if we continue on the path of inaction, we will never witness the improved world that awaits. Will YOU be the one to speak out? Or will you decide that our democracy is not worth the effort change requires?“

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Sarah Norton, a senior at Clinton-Massie High School, won second place in the Clinton County Alliance for Compassion and Truth (A.C.T.) essay contest for this essay on Chapter Eight of Timothy Snyder’s book, “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.” Below is her essay:

“On Tyranny” was a very interesting read. While short, this book opens a new way of looking at our current world. The lessons offer a reflective look at the past and how it applies to today. One lesson that stood out to me was lesson number 8: Stand Out. This whole book speaks to the fundamental democratic values, but I felt this chapter completely encompasses what compassion and truth are truly about.

Timothy Snyder included two examples of people that stood out in this lesson, Winston Churchill and Teresa Prekerowa. These two people were courageous and stood out among their peers. Winston Churchill pulled Great Britain through World War II. He fought even when things were going badly. Teresa Prekerowa was a young Polish woman who brought medicine and food to the Warsaw ghetto and helped a Jewish family escape certain death. Both of these people showed great perseverance and compassion in the face of fear. Churchill could have pulled Great Britain out of the war when things turned for the worst. But he did not. Prekerowa could have turned a blind eye to the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto. But she did not. They did what they knew was right and fought for the truth even when their peers shied away and followed others.

Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi are three women who started the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. It was born when Alicia Garza heard that George Zimmerman was acquitted of the crime of murdering Trayvon Martin as he walked home from a convenience store. After creating the hashtag, she met and joined forces with Patrisse Cullors and OpalTometi. Although Garza created the hashtag in 2013, it didn’t quite catch on until 2014 when Michael Brown, a black teenager, was shot and killed by a white police officer. The three had started with a hashtag on social media and now Black Lives Matter is an official organization with more than 40 chapters. These women stood out from other people and continue to fight for the truth and for what is right.

Another group of people that come to my mind when I think about standing out are the students at Gallaudet University in 1988. Gallaudet University is a university for Deaf and hard-of-hearing people. In 1988, a new president of the college was being elected. There were two Deaf candidates, Irving King Jordan and Harvey Corson, and one hearing candidate, Elizabeth Zinser. The students were hoping to finally have a Deaf president. Unfortunately, they didn’t get what they wanted. Elizabeth Zinser was appointed as president even though she was hearing and didn’t know much about Deaf culture at all. Gallaudet students made a movement called “Deaf President Now”. They rallied and eventually got Zinser to resign and Irving King Jordan was appointed. They fought for equality and they won. They stood up and out and were courageous.

Lesson 8: Stand Out is a vital lesson for everyone. It separates the leaders and activists from the followers and the sheep. It shows who is courageous and persevering but also who is compassionate and truthful. To stand out and make a difference requires compassion and the truth. A person can try to stand out with lies and hatefulness, but they will never be successful. Compassion and truth are the two pillars that ordinary people need to do extraordinary things and to stand out.

Winners of the Clinton County Alliance for Compassion and Truth (ACT) 2022 essay contest were recognized Thursday evening and presented $250 first place and $150 second place prize checks and signed copies of the illustrated edition of “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” by Timothy Snyder. The theme of the contest, open to high school students in the county, was how Snyder’s book addresses the democratic values of compassion and truth. From left are, front row, Clinton-Massie senior Sarah Norton, second-place winner; Clinton-Massie sophomore Danica Henderson, first-place winner; and ACT essay committee member Christine Snyder; and, back, essay committee members Mary Thomas Watts and Elaine Silverstrim, ACT president.
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2022/01/web1_IMG_0084.jpgWinners of the Clinton County Alliance for Compassion and Truth (ACT) 2022 essay contest were recognized Thursday evening and presented $250 first place and $150 second place prize checks and signed copies of the illustrated edition of “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” by Timothy Snyder. The theme of the contest, open to high school students in the county, was how Snyder’s book addresses the democratic values of compassion and truth. From left are, front row, Clinton-Massie senior Sarah Norton, second-place winner; Clinton-Massie sophomore Danica Henderson, first-place winner; and ACT essay committee member Christine Snyder; and, back, essay committee members Mary Thomas Watts and Elaine Silverstrim, ACT president. Submitted photo

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