Why I’m Optimistic About our Nation’s Future – Voice of Democracy Essay Competition

photo-5Stranded Starfish

By Cassandra Hsiao

Third Place in the 2013-2014 Voice of Democary Audio Essay Scholarship Competition for District Six 

The sun kissed the horizon and stretched its rays to the beach. Waves crashed against the shore as the water began to recede. Stranded starfish were scattered on the sand for miles up the beach. The tide retreated and the starfish started to bake in the sun. A young boy reached down and gently flung the starfish back to sea. He fought tears and tried not to remember how his older brother and his friends taunted him, laughing that he’d be there for an eternity picking up the thousands of starfish. “It does makes a difference,” he whispered to himself fiercely and tossed another one into the waves. He straightened up and looked out into the horizon, imagining a smiling starfish happy to be back in the water. “It made a difference at least to that one.”

We’ve all heard some version of this tale before. It’s hard not to look through paradigms of pessimism at not only saving stranded starfish, but also at making a difference in the community. After all, what can one simple act of kindness do? The answer is, it may be enough to spark an underground movement that could change a nation’s future – with the perks of a better education and a youth geared program.

With America’s economy crisis including a high unemployment rate and a growing number of food insecure families, it’s easy to squint and predict our nation heading downhill on a dark, bleak desolate road. On the currents we are drifting with now, no one can say for sure – but I believe we can make changes for the better.

Why am I so optimistic? You ask. Ever since the invention of Facebook, social networking has burst into the frontiers of everyday life. “What?” You may say. “This is one of America’s biggest problems! Unmotivated teenagers glued to the screen, instant messaging, tweeting, status updating, and posting!” But I say, this makes change in America easier! Communication has increased so greatly that anything can be instantly shared and passed along.

After the Newtown school shooting in December 2012, a campaign went viral. Ann Curry from NBC News tweeted an idea simple in its concept – do 26 acts of kindness in remembrance of the 20 kids and 6 adults that died in the shooting. It sparked a movement in which thousands have tweeted back about how they’ve spread the kindness, such as anonymously paying for a co-worker’s coffee, helping strangers, and delivering meals. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all played huge roles in sharing this wave of random acts. People became so passionate about these small acts of kindness, just like the boy who rescued stranded starfish. In fact, the 26 Acts of Kindness Facebook page has garnered over 100,000 likes.

Education has also improved – it’s now cheaper and more accessible! The Gates Foundation did a study in 2008 that found that young adults from ages 18 to 26 would like to pursue college degrees but are afraid they would be too overwhelmed with family, work, and school. Now, online education makes students’ schedules flexible, allowing instant access all around the clock. Some of the world’s leading universities have released free online courses. In 2001, MIT offered OpenCourseWare, a program that allows anyone to access the college courses for free. Students can watch tutorials and lectures online with a click of a button. With a world of knowledge right at our fingertips, America’s next generation can easily access current events, trending topics, and the tools needed to fight for what we believe in.

With a push in the right direction and a nod from the older, experienced generation, I am optimistic about America’s future. I believe young people are actually open and willing to take the responsibility as our country’s leaders – as long as we are well prepared. Like the little boy walking the shore, if the idea that “making a difference, no matter how small” can take root, our generation will be well-equipped with the perks of social media, accessible education, and advice from our elders to step up and revolutionize the world. Although big changes may not happen anytime soon, it’s saving the stranded starfish that count.



About Cassandra Hsiao

Cassandra Hsiao is a senior at OCSA (Orange County School of the Arts). Her work has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and National Student Poets Program. She has been chosen as finalists of playwriting competitions held by California Young Playwrights, The Blank Theatre, Writopia Labs, and Princeton University. Her poetry, essays and reviews have appeared in TeenReads, Jet Fuel Review, Feminine Inquiry, Aerie International and more. She also conducts print and on-camera interviews as a Star Reporter and Film Critic for multiple online outlets. She won a National Gracie Award in Student Online Video Host Category by The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation . https://twitter.com/Cassandra_Hsiao

Posted on January 27, 2014, in Editor's Column, Giving Back to the Community. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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