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March 20, 2014     Times
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8 By Mike Lakin herthe debtm°neYfreebringSgoal, her "10-times closer" to ~i Madison will attend North Central in Na- perville. When asked about her study - she said, "My dual goal is a double major to be an athletic trainer - sports management. I like the security of berg a high school ath- :~ ................. ~o~ :letic trainer and work into being an athletic :: ~'~ ~ ~ ~ ::,~i:: director. An added goal is to own my gym." ~~ With her recent accomplishment people have aIso encouraged her to consider a ca- Madison Haley has made a major accom- reer in broadcasting. plishment, being named the VFW National Madison is encouraging fellow high Voice of Democracy champion during cer- school students to participate in the Mt. emonies held March 3 in Washington, D.C. Pulaski VFW 777 Voice of Democracy later Her essay below, an analogy, drew ovations this year. She characterized the opportunity after each reading through the various lev- as a "speech for a scholarship". els of competition she moved through.. My personal observation after talking When asked how she developed the con- with Madison is that this is a young woman cept, Madison said she began in September marking out goals for her future. I was im- by watching last year's winner. She was im- pressed in that her words are positive and pressed by the creativity behind the essay, her plans are marked with these goals. Not She knew that creativity was the key to the once did she-use indefinite words -r dreams winner's success, or hopes - she has goals and has mapped Madison and her father worked together out how to accomplish them. initially to develop her own creative idea. Each year, nearly 40,000 high school After several "brainstorming" sessions students from across the country enter to Madison saw her essay as an analogy of a win a share of the $2.2 million in educa- ship - USS America = moving through his- tional scholarships and incentives awarded tory and into the current events informed through the VFW's Voice of Democracy people are familiar with. audio-essay competition. Well into the competition, Madison said Knowing that a democratic society needs she was surprised to find the USS America nurturing, the VFW established the Voice was an actual ship - she had no idea- it just of Democracy program (VOD) in 1947 to "fit" into her analogy, provide students grades 9-12 the oppor- When Madison found she had won the tunity to express themselves in regards to district competition she was excited, but she democratic ideas and principles. said her excitement didn't match the level During the annual VFW Legislative of the Mt. Pulaski VFW Commander Roger Conference in Washington D.C., the na- Bates. She said when it was announced she tional first-place winner receives a $30,000 had won Roger jumped up with both hands scholarshil5 paid directly to the recipient's in the air and yelled, ,YES"! Roger's en- American university, college or vocational/ thusiasm continued right through the March technical school. 3 competition. All first-place winners from each (State) "Mt. Pulaski VFW 777 gave me all the VFW Department win an all-expense-paid support in the world", Madison said, "they trip to Washington, D.C. during the annual even gave me a great party - banquet before l~t-week-of-March National VFW Legisla- leaving for D.C." tive Conference. The all expense paid trip to Washington Madison Haley, sponsored by Mt. Pulaski included more than the competition. Madi- VFW Post 777 and Ladies Auxiliary, was son enjoyed a visit to Mt. Vernon, CaPital presented the T.C. Selman Memorial Schol- Memorials, the Parade of Winners, and arship award in the amount of $30,000. a boat cruise on the Potomac with a DJ - Madison was selected as the Illinois State dance., She added that she met so many Champion during the. Illinois Voice of De- "neat people", mocracy Banquet held Feb. 8 in Spring- Now, Madison is looking forward to her field, representing District 10 and its Ladies all expense paid trip to Valley Forge for the Auxiliary, Youth Leadership Conference. She said, Mt. Pulaski VFW 777 Commander Roger "Coming together again with the other stu- Bates is - shall we say - enthusiastic when dents is an exciting opportunity", talking about Madison's accomplishment. What about the $30,000 scholarship? "I am still in shock. I can't believe what she Madison said - even before the Voice of has accomplished for us. You know, there Democracy opportunity she had a goal. She were 40,000 other entrants!" Roger said. wants to graduate college free of debt. She Roger told Madison, "Make the most of noted she was grateful for "the scholarship; the trip. Enjoy it. We are just glad you are making the trip to D.C." Roger said he was nervous following the national competition as it unfolded on the Internet broadcast. "when they announced the 4th-place winner's name = Madison - I thought all-right. But it wasn't our Madi- son. Then they went on and when they an- nounced the 1st place winner was Madison Haley... well that's when I called you. It's still just unbelievable. She's such a bright young lady!" Pointing out that the first VFW National Voice of Democracy winner was the late national news CBS broadcaster Charles Kuralt, Roger added that Madison was "in great company". Recapping, Roger said when Madison read her essay at the Mt. Pulaski Veterans Day Dinner in November everyone was im- pressed. Roger added that so many attend- ing just called her essay concept "unbeliev- able". The next competition was the District reading in Springfield where Roger reports Madison received a two-minute standing ovation. And then - with his pride showing - Roger said at the D.C. reading two Na- tional VFW Commanders commented on Madison's essay with the words, "You've got something here". While Memorial Day is a few months away, Roger thinks we have the best Memorial Day speaker lined up. The VFW National Voice of Democracy Winning Essay... • "Why I'm Optimistic About Our Nation's Future." By Madison Haley Benghazi, illegal spying by the NSA, the targeting of conservative Americans by the IRS... I watch the news, and it seems that our Country is plagued by turmoil and strife. Trayvon Martin, the Fort Hood massacre, the Boston bombing...I watch the news and it seems that our Country is overwhelmed by hate and division. It would be easy for me (a high school senior) to be pessimistic about the -nation's future and fearful of my own, and yet I'm not. I'm just the opposite actually. Why may you ask? Let me tell you the story of the USS America, and you will clearly see why, like me, you too should be optimistic about this Nation's future. Inspired by architects such as Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the blueprints of a vessel unlike any the world has seen before were crafted. Held captive by tyran- nical English moorings, thousands of peo- ple willingly sacrificed their lives to release her binds while yelling in unison "In God We Trust!" Following the command of her Captain, George Washington, they raised the red, white, and blue sails adorned with stars and stripes as they set sail for history with the Constitution to guide the way. She was constructed from freedom and liberty, and in over 200 years, she's never sunk. On her hull, the following words are emblazoned, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happi- ness." She's only run aground once on the rocky shores of the Civil War. During this time, she was torn in half as the current of slav- ery pulled her to and fro against the jagged rocks. This is the closet she's ever come to sinking. That is until Abraham Lincoln guided her to deeper waters using the tide of emancipation to break her bondage while freeing all. The winds of time carry her to lands of prosperity and through storms of adversi- ty that riddle her to the core, but the crew never withers, and her body never breaks from the strain. Facing tsunamis such as the Great Depression, two World Wars, and two fallen towers, she sails onward...constantly and consistently moving forward. She may bend, but she never breaks, and though she sometimes loses her way, she is eventually led back on course by her unwavering com- pass, the Constitution. This is why I'm optimistic. I'm a crew member of the USS America, and because of her history,. I know this ship will always cut through murky waters and weather all storms. When I look behind from where we have come, I am no longer afraid to look ahead to where we are going. It's not that the ship is unsinkable, but rather, her crew re- fuses to allow it to sink. Yes, we have strife, and the love of many grows cold, but when the winds roar and the waves threaten, we pull together. The eradication of slavery's evil was supplanted by the triumphant elec- tion of our nation's first black President. The carnage of two World Wars birthed our nation's greatest generation who freed millions from German oppression, and the heart of mankind rose from the rubble of two fallen towers as evidenced by the coura- geous firemen and policemen who thought nothing of their own safety while rescuing others. But mostly, I'm optimistic because this country is still the Land of the Free, the Home of the Brave, one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. I know that when the skies grow dark and the waves threaten, we will resolutely stand on the bow of the USS America while reciting the same words our forefathers did before us; "In God We Trust." la IO o O 4~