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What makes America great?

America is so great because she has been founded and shaped by fearless people who did not surrender to inequality or injustice. America was built by the people that saw hope for a brighter future despite the darkness that surrounded them.

Think about Harriet Tubman who risked her life to guide over three hundred slaves to freedom. Think about Martin Luther King, Jr. who fought on behalf of all victims of injustice. Think about Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, George Washington, and so many others. We have all heard their names from history class, but many of us do not realize that they are all a part of what makes America great, even today.

Not everyone that helped make America great is noted in our history textbooks. The thousands of courageous soldiers that had fought and had fallen for freedom and justice helped shape America. The families of the soldiers also made a huge contribution by supporting their loved ones in battle. Even all of the citizens that had ever voted took a part in shaping America to be the great nation it is today.

A quality that I think makes America great is that when disaster strikes, America refuses to be defeated. One good example are the 9/11 attacks. When the World Trade Center was hit, so many people came forward, risking their lives to rescue others. Hundreds of Americans became heroes that day, including members of the New York Fire Department and the workers that helped others evacuate the buildings.

Everyone that helped during the 9/11 attacks or the aftermath, showed America’s greatness. They proved to the world that no matter what happened, America was not going to fall, especially not to terrorism. That day, President George W. Bush declared, “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”

After recovering from the 9/11 attacks, America rose to be stronger than ever.

America is great, because there are people fighting for America right now. Notice the many veterans that walk among us. Everyday, there are noble Americans that voluntarily sacrifice their lives to give others freedoms. Everyday, there are people that fight for justice and equality. Everyday, selfless Americans take time out of their day to inspire the leaders of tomorrow. There is no doubt that all of these people help make America great.

America is the land of freedom. Every morning, we have the freedom to choose when to get up, and what to wear. We get to live every day with the freedom of speech and religion, and many others. However, I think one of the freedoms that is not appreciated enough in America is the freedom to get an education.

Many of us go to school as if it is a burden. We think of our classes as a waste of time. But have you ever thought of school as an opportunity to learn and grow? Many of us take school for granted, and even think of it as punishment, while there are kids in other countries that would risk their lives to be able to go to school. They would risk their lives to have the opportunity to get an education. In America, we have this opportunity, and that is a big part of what makes America great.

There are people all around us that are making America great right now. Take a look around you. Whether you are sitting in class, trying to keep your tired eyes open, or grocery shopping to fill your empty fridge, pause for a moment.

Sometimes, our busy lives can prevent us from noticing the beautiful world around us, like how the sun’s rays turn everything into a brilliant gold, or how the birds sing like the most passionate composers, but most importantly, how the people around us are making a difference. So take a moment to notice the people around you. Is your teacher working hard to educate the next generation of leaders? Are there veterans shopping at the same store as you?

We don’t even realize it, but we are surrounded by people that are making America great, and we should be grateful for them. And you might not even realize that you are a part of what makes America great too.

Many people think that they are insignificant and that their actions have little to no effect on America, but that is not true. No matter who you are, you can make a difference. Your single vote could change America’s future. Your single voice could lead to a change in hundreds of lives. You are not insignificant.

Take a moment right now to think about what you do for America. Are you a part of what makes America great? If the answer is yes, then you can ask yourself, “What can I do to make America even greater?”

Sonia Jin is a freshman at Houghton High School and a student in Julie Antilla’s English class. She won second place in Houghton’s Voice of Democracy contest.

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