By Colin Capenito, Rosanna Zhao, and Matthew Gates, V Form
The Shen Prize Speech Competition: Contraction or Expansion of Democracy in American History
Editors’ Note: Below are three finalists of The Shen Prize Speech Competition
Winner–Colin Capenito: On The Federal Reserve and Democracy
Money. We work for it. We fight for it. We die for it. We live because of it. Whether you agree with this reality or not, there can be no denying that money is at the front and center of our society. And when something goes wrong with our money? We panic. And when we panic, we make rash decisions, decisions that often lead to unforeseen consequences. This happens every day on an individual level- panic tied to money. But what happens when this panic, followed by rash decision making, happens at a national level?
Well, we do not need to ponder over this question, because the answer already exists- and that is the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve Act was signed by President Woodrow Wilson on December 23rd, 1913. The act gave way to the creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1914, the central banking system that we still live under today.
Runner up–Rosanna Zhao: America and the Holocaust
During the start of World War II, a complete autocracy was becoming increasingly powerful across the oceans, spreading ideals that starkly contrasted American democracy. American democracy is not only the guarantee of social equality for every citizen of the country, but also the divine obligation to project social equality onto every corner of the world – a world without discrimination for race, ethnicity, or religion. On the other hand, Hitler led Nazi Germany to spread terror and oppression across Europe, erasing all traces of social equality for many minorities, especially Jews.
Although the United States remained distant from the violence in Europe at first, the attack on Pearl Harbor automatically brought America into war against the Axis Powers, which included Nazi Germany. After the economy was stabilized, people began to question America’s stance in World War II regarding the Holocaust. Although the United States entered World War II with the plan to defeat Germany and spread democracy, true democracy was collapsed by denial of a possible Holocaust, refusal to help Jewish refugees, and lack of media recognition. America failed to adhere to its duty to expand social equality, a key part of democracy.
Runner up–Matthew Gates: The Electoral College
The right to vote is one of the fundamental principles of American democracy. And the power of democracy is usually vested in the majority, which makes decisions for the nation as a whole. However, five Presidents have been elected despite losing the popular vote: John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, George Bush, and, most recently, Donald Trump. How did this happen? How did the person who won the popular vote lose the Presidency 5 different times? The answers lie in the Electoral College.