Nevada County Democratic Women's Club President Janet Reybolds, Scholarship Winner Quinlan Grim and Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Photo: YubaNet
GRASS VALLEY, Calif. May 6, 2013 - The Nevada County Democratic Women's Club held their annual Annette M. Gillette Scholarship Luncheon on Saturday. The well-attended event featured Quinlan Grim, the essay contest winner, congressional candidate Heidi Hall and was headlined by California's Secretary of State Debra Bowen.
Bowen, the sixth woman in California history elected to a statewide constitutional office in 2006, shared anecdotes of her path into politics and had the audience chuckling at her encounter with a hapless TSA agent who apparently mistook her for an assistant and was still looking for 'The Secretary of State' while Bowen and her CHP escort were standing right in front of him. The Secretary of State also challenged the group to enroll more younger women, promising to come back if the group adds 40 high school students to their membership.
Quinlan Grim was this year's winner of the Gillette scholarship. Her essay was chosen from 17 submissions based on the theme "We the People." The annual scholarship was established in memory of Annette M. Gillette, a long time Nevada County resident, teacher and Democrat. Read Grim's essay below.
I have grown up in a nation full of problems.
Many Americans would disagree, I think, almost by instinct. In many ways we are raised to believe that we Jive in the best country in the world. America the proud, the beautiful, the flawless. But I am not afraid to admit it: the country I call home is riddled with complex, seemingly unsolvable problems, and is far from any sort of perfection. I have grown up in a nation on the verge of failing.
The struggles I watched my parents cope with as a child were enough evidence for me. We were a middle class family, and when the economy turned, it hit us hard. From a child's point of view, it's hard to comprehend why life suddenly changes. Dad's business was gone. Then the boat was gone. The horses were gone. And eventually, the house was gone. I had no one to blame but a vague picture in my mind of several old men in suits, sitting around a table somewhere and deciding the fate of my family's farm. It's easy, even as a kid, to put all our problems on the government. To make the ones in charge the bad guys.
In fifth grade, I was taught all about the constitution. To the bubbly tune of a Schoolhouse Rock video, I memorized the words of the preamble. IIWe the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union ... " At the time, of course, it was just another list of words to me. I had no interest in understanding the random capitalizations or what the word posterity means. But for whatever reason, those words stuck with me. "We the People ... " It was an odd comparison: those heroes of 1776, those champions of my inalienable rights, in contrast with the evil men in suits, twisting their Vaudeville mustaches as they gleefully selected the "self-destruct" button on the u.s. economy machine. I wondered for a moment what had gone wrong with our government that could change it so dramatically.
These days, I think a little differently about the contrast. It's not so much that our politicians today are corrupt or evil in comparison to the founders of our nation. In my belief, it is the fact that we believe in an impossibly equal, unachievably fair society that makes what we have seem so wrong, makes us yearn and even fight for change. The ideals of freedom, honesty and unending human rights that our leaders have presented to us from the birth of our country are what sets America apart in the world. Unfortunately, it is that same attitude that causes our conflicts. All the major struggles in US history have been issues of freedom and rights. The Civil War, for example, would never have occurred in a nation of more restricted freedoms. Not only was abolishing slavery an issue of human rights, it was the right of the southern states to fight against it. In his famous Gettysburg Address, President lincoln speaks of the violent war as a turning point in American history. He refers to an American government " ... of the people, by the people, for the people ... " But how can such a government exist without endless turmoil, when "the people" consists of every differing opinion with every equal right to express it?
I know what this sounds like. I know those critics, sitting behind their dim computer screens and ranting on about our idiotic nation and the idiots who run it. But that is not me. I believe in America. More importantly, I believe in people. I would hate to think that there is no hope for the people of this nation; that politicians will remain selfish, that the economy will remain sunk, that the parties will remain stubborn. Actually, I believe the opposite. I have enough faith in humanity to know that we do have the ability to come together. To put our differences aside and agree on a greater good. As Americans, we all have the right to form and express our own opinions and beliefs. We also have an overwhelming amount of pride in ourselves, our nation and the things we believe in. What we lack is the ability to stop, listen and consider one another's point of view. That, I truly believe, is what will save our nation. When the arguing stops and the important issues can be dealt with, that is when America can be considered the greatest nation In the world.
The 2012 Democratic platform claimed that liAs Americans, we are bound together 9Y more than nationality or geography!' They stated that Americans are bound together by the idea that we are better together, that our greatest problems can be solved by coming together despite differences. It is another idealistic, hopeful speech. It captures the spirit of America, but maybe not the reality. Not yeti at least. I would like to say the 2012 election was different, that I could see the beginnings of change in politicians' mindset. But I don't think it's true. What I did see, though, was a change taking place in the people around me. My peers, the next generation of voters and leaders, have a much different idea of politics and government than our parents.
During the election, I watched the children of Democrats and Republicans discussing together how stubborn and single-minded politicians can be. In school, we all have different opinions, but we are not ashamed to be convinced or change our minds.
What I see coming in the future of America is a new, open-minded generation, who understands our parents' and grandparents' mistakes. I see the words 'Democrat' and 'Republican' becoming as irrelevant as black or white, and the problems of our nation being taken into the hands of the people, not mindlessly blamed on the government. My generation understands that we have grown up in a nation full of problems, and that we cannot solve any of them divided~ We ne~d to stop believing in this idealistic society and start putting some faith in the real one. People are different; we all have different opinions about the way our country should be run. But that doesn't mean we can't understand and listen to each other.
I grew up in a nation on the verge of failing. But I strongly believe that the people are in charge, and we have the ability to make a change. All it takes is the siniplest change in thinking.
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