2011 Essay Winner: Radio

Cara Bernard, Governor Thomas Johnson High School

Democracy is the only system that persists in asking the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be.

–Sydney J. Harris, American journalist and author

When I was twelve, I placed a butterfly in a plastic container and took it with me to the bowling alley. I sat it next to me while I ate and had my cousins “babysit” it while I bowled. We shook its container to see if it would fly around its air-tight habitat in agitated retaliation-which it did, initially. But by the next day, my butterfly was dead. I like to think of that day as the day I learned the redeeming power of choice. As Jean-Jacques Rousseau asserted, men are born free but subjected to certain chains society imposes, such as a government that does not let people make their own choices.[1]

Much like the tragic tale of my fluttering friend, “chains” that imprison individuals can keep them from making their own choices. A society where people cannot make their own choices about how to live their lives and conduct themselves is one that stifles world order. If people are not given the freedoms and rights with which Rousseau deemed we were born, they retaliate.   This idea can be seen everywhere from Plato’s allegory of the cave,[2] to Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail,[3] to the recent revolutions surging through the Middle East and Northern Africa.[4] People put under oppressive situations will seek redemption through any sources they see necessary. For this reason, democracy is needed to create a stable world order, especially in today’s society. We live in a globalized society where people from traditionally socially repressive nations have access to learning about and encountering democracy[5] from various sources. When repressed people learn of democracy, they might retaliate against their current system and create political and even violent unrest which can be damaging to world order. If my butterfly had known a trick to escape his enclosed fate, he surely would have taken it.

A society where people can make their own decisions and become the people they aspire to be is one that encourages growth for humanity. Traditional democracy allows laws to be repealed if unjust, and people to take part in fair elections. If these seemingly minor rights were to be granted to every world citizen, a free-thinking and even liberated population would be the backbone for a new stable world order. And like my butterfly never could all those years ago, mankind would spread its wings and soar.

Works Cited (Bibliography)

Applebaum, Anne. “Every Revolution is Different”. Posted Monday, Feb. 21, 2011, at 3:19 PM ET.  <http://www.slate.com/id/2285696/>

Estes, Leonora Jane. “Faces of the Facebook Revolution”. April 4th, 2011. <http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2011/04/egypt-protesters-slide-show-201104#intro>

Jean-Jacques Rousseau. “The Social Contract” in The Social Contract and Discourses, ed. P.D. Jimack, rev. ed. (Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle, 1973, 1993), 203. Print.

King, Martin Luther, Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay. New York: Norton, 1997. 1854-66. Print

Plato. “The Simile of the Cave.” Republic. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974. New York, New York.  240-48. Print.


[1] Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, in The Social Contract and Discourses, ed. P.D. Jimack, rev. ed. (Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle, 1973, 1993), 203. Print.

[2] Plato. “The Simile of the Cave.” Republic. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974. 240-48. Print.

[3] King, Martin Luther, Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay. New York: Norton, 1997. 1854-66. Print

[4] Applebaum, Anne. “Every Revolution is Different”. Posted Monday, Feb. 21, 2011, at 3:19 PM ET. http://www.slate.com/id/2285696/

[5] Estes, Leonora Jane. “Faces of the Facebook Revolution”. April 4th, 2011. http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2011/04/egypt-protesters-slide-show-201104#intro.