VFW Contest

Written by John Foster.

Top Finalist in the State Voice of Democracy contest

Grace Harris, a 17-year-old junior at Carthage High School, was named the local winner in the Voice of Democracy competition conducted by VFW Post 5620 in Carthage.  Her entry advanced to the VFW District 19 competition where it was selected as the best.  She was invited to read her essay at the district’s mid-winter meeting in Henderson where she received a plaque and a $300 check for winning that contest.

Next in line for Grace was the state Voice of Democracy contest where she was named one of the top 12 finalists who were invited to Austin for three days of activities and sightseeing.  The state conference culminated with the awards banquet on January 30 where Grace was named as the sixth place finisher and received an award of $4,500. As a junior, Grace will be eligible to compete in next year’s VOD contest, which is open to all students in high school grades 9-12.  Post 5620 contacted local high schools and Panola Charter School to distribute entry forms in this year’s contest.

Entrants must submit a written essay and an audio recording on a CD or flash drive.  The essay as read should be between three and five minutes in length.  State winners are judged in a national competition with the top finisher receiving a $30,000 scholarship.

Grace said, “The contest has been a great experience for me.”  In Austin, finalists toured the state capital building and met with the lieutenant governor.  Students also visited the Bob Bullock Museum of Texas History and the Texas State Cemetery as well as dining at several noted restaurants in Austin.

Post 5620 Commander Jerry Caldwell said, “Grace is a wonderful ambassador not only for the VFW, but also for her school and community.”

Grace is an all-around student and athlete at CHS.  She participated in volleyball, softball and basketball in her freshman and sophomore years.  She also is chapter officer of FFA and received the star Greenhand degree and star chapter degree.

Grace is a member of Key Club and serves as the Hugh O’Brien youth ambassador.  She also is in the student council, participates in blood drives and is active in the Technology Students Assn. She excels academically and has completed AP courses in English and world history.  She’s an early enrollment student at Panola College and will have 12 hours of college credit at the end of this school year. Grace is the daughter of Robert Harris and Candace Harris of DeBerry.  

An excerpt from her speech: My Vision for America

My generation has more information at their fingertips than any generation before us. But one thing that is being lost is an inborn sense of patriotism. I see students in my classes all the time who don’t even bother standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. When did we begin to take our freedom for granted and how do we get back to a place where people feel honored to be citizens of the greatest country in the world? I do not think the answer is as far out of reach as it seems. Our nation’s people, students and adults alike, need to take the infinite amount of information available and educate themselves about the affairs of our country. If the majority of the general public was more attentive to current events and understood better what they were voting for or supporting, I believe we would see a more effective form of democracy instead of the grid locked system we currently have. Everyone is so set on trying to have the upper hand that they’re sabotaging our nation’s well-being.

What America needs is for her people to stand up for what they believe, to speak out in favor of what is best for our country as a whole, and to honor those who have fought and died to keep this nation free. My vision for America is a land where opinions are respected and compromises are accepted for the betterment of our nation.