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The Shen Prize Speech Competition: Contraction or Expansion of Democracy in American History

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.

Click here for the full speech!

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. (more…)

The Reach for Perfection in the Jacksonian Era

By Matthew Gates, V Form

The Reach for Perfection in the Jacksonian Era

02a613d4bc20093f6602806c8cacd880--us-presidents-american-presidentsAlthough Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of The United States, only held office from 1829 to 1837, he made a profound impact on American history. During “The Jacksonian Era,” (1816-1841) the economy boomed, technology advanced, American borders expanded, but most importantly, the common man gained a sense of importance, and American optimism and patriotism were “unbounded” and “infectious” (Remini 108). It was a time of “passionate commitment to democracy” (Remini 122).

In response to the boom in the economy and the growth of industry and materialism in America during the Jacksonian Era, the theme of Culture and Society is evident throughout the Transcendental Movement. This movement, which originated in Massachusetts, emphasized the divinity of man and his connections to God and stressed the beauty in nature in a society preoccupied with materialism. Transcendentalists such as Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson encouraged Americans to live more modestly and enjoy the simplicity of nature.  Emerson referred to the growing obsession of the American people to gain wealth as “‘the demon of reform,’” thereby proving that the emergence of the Transcendental Movement was necessary to respond to the expansion of American industrialism and materialism (Remini 73). Even today, there are still Transcendentalists who believe in the importance of living humbly and recognizing the beauty in nature in daily life. (more…)

Moments of Significant Expansion or Contraction of U.S. Democracy

By Anthony D’Angelo, Sophie Haugen, Kaela Dunne, Rebecca Lovett, and Izzy (Minjae) Kim, V Form

Moments of Significant Expansion or Contraction of U.S. Democracy

The Shen Prize is a speech competition for V Formers responding to the prompt: What is a moment of significant expansion or contraction of United States’ democracy?

Below are links to the text of the speeches by the five finalists as well as the video of the actual speeches. The Shen Prize was bestowed upon Rebecca Lovett.

In order of appearance:

Anthony D’Angelo: The All-American Girl’s Professional Baseball League

Sophie Haugen: Xenophobia–Never the Answer

Kaela Dunne: Reclaim the Title “Home of the Brave”

Rebecca Lovett (Shen Prize): The Civil Rights Act of 1964–Greatest Expansion of Human Rights, Suffrage, Opportunity, and Democracy

Izzy (Minjae) Kim: Leveraging the “Soft Power” of the U.N. (more…)

On Defining a Nation in The Global Seminar

By Laura Sabino, III Form

On Defining a Nation in The Global Seminar

A nation does not need to have a large number of members or consist of one piece of land. A nation is a group of people that are connected to each other because there is something that unites them, such as a common leader or government.

Different nations can be defined by politics. Politically, a nation is a group of people that live in the same certain country, follow the government of said country, and live together as a community. In politics, a nation is a country’s land and all that is in it. However, different types of nations can share something in common that is unrelated to politics. This is like a music artist who has a nation of fans because those fans are brought together by something they all have in common: a love for the performer. (more…)

The Founding Fathers’ Intent and the Formation of the Constitution

By Joey Lyons, VI Form

 

The Founding Fathers’ Intent and the Formation of the Constitution

Throughout the country’s history, Americans have romanticized the nation-building work of the Founding Fathers. Since egalitarianism, liberty and democracy are central to the American mythos, Americans have often associated those ideals with the country’s founders. In making this association, Americans neglect the private interactions between the founders and, instead, focus on their public rhetoric. In public documents, most of the Founding Fathers expressed a desire to establish an inclusive democracy with majority rule. However, the founders, all of whom were in the economic elite, communicated different beliefs amongst themselves. Privately, the Founding Fathers wrote about their concerns over the possibility of oppressive majority rule by common people. As wealthy landowners, events, like the Rhode Island Currency Crisis and Shay’s Rebellion (both in 1786), (more…)