HOHENFELS, Germany -- As the European winner of the Veterans of Foreign Wars' (VFW) Voice of Democracy audio essay contest, Hohenfels Middle/High School junior Jackson Pierce is one of 54 students from across the globe on his way to a four-day tour around Washington, D.C., March 2-6.
The contest, which posed the question "Is our constitution still relevant?" drew more than 50,000 competitors vying for over $2.2 million in scholarships and incentives. One winner from each VFW department, which includes all 50 states as well as Europe, Latin America and Pacific areas, is chosen for an all expense trip to the nation's capital.
Pierce's essay focused not only on if the Constitution is still relevant, but why it remains so. He argues that due to the constitution's flexibility and "by its ability to be reinterpreted by future generations, the constitution will survive and remain relevant forever."
"We were studying the constitution in AP (Advanced Placement) Government at the time, and that really helped because I actually knew what I was talking about," Pierce said.
Pierce has been gathering accolades since he won the Hohenfels branch of the competition and was invited to read his essay at the Veteran's Day ceremony here in November.
His stepfather, Lt. Col. Anthony S'Chevalier, said after reading the essay the first time, he was sure Pierce had a good chance of winning.
"He took the question and changed it around and made it his own question," said S'Chevalier. "It gave me chills."
The overall winner will be announced in Washington, March 3, during the "Parade of Winners." For excited friends and family, the event will be live-streamed at www.vfw.org.
"Honestly, I didn't expect to get this far, so as far as I know I could win," laughed Pierce.
Whether he takes the grand prize or not, Pierce has an exciting itinerary lined up in Washington. With visits to Arlington National Cemetery, the Smithsonian Museums, the Lincoln Memorial, the U.S. Capitol and more, students will get an up-close look at democracy in action.
"I'm most excited about maybe getting to meet the president," Pierce said, noting that in previous years, Voice of Democracy winners have received last-minute invitations to greet the president.
Pierce credits his three years in the JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps ) for giving him the confidence to enter the contest.
"In my freshman year, I probably wouldn't have even tried," said Pierce. "But JROTC gave me more of a proactive mindset."
As sergeant major for the JROTC Battalion this year, Pierce leads his fellow cadets in many activities outside the classroom. The sergeant major typically has more involvement in the battalion than any other personality, even the commander or the executive officer.
Pierce also leads the way in the JROTC Raider program, being hailed as the most physically fit of the Raider team. He was the only cadet this year to receive the Army Physical Fitness Test award for a score of 290 or better.
"That's very difficult for a high school student to do," said retired Maj. Dan Parker, JROTC instructor at HMHS. "I've been teaching ROTC for 25 years and he's only the sixt h cadet in my charge to have received that award."
"Combine that with the fact that he's been selected for so many academic awards speaks very well for him and his future," Parker said.
Voice of Democracy: Is our Constitution still relevant?
By Jackson Pierce
Is our Constitution still relevant…This is a very interesting question. Most people would say yes without really thinking about it. It's a historical document that contains all of our laws and was signed by those historically important people. It's what makes America a democracy…right? All of this is true, but it does not explain WHY the Constitution is relevant. These are answers that anybody off the street could give. So, the question here is not whether the Constitution is relevant. The question is WHY is it still relevant. Times have changed so much since the signing of the Constitution in 1789. How could it possibly have any relevance today?
The constitution of the United States of America is one of the least amended and longest lasting constitutions in the history of the world. Adopted in 1787 by the Constitutional Convention, the Constitution has survived Civil War, economic crises, and ever-changing demographics relatively unscathed. Amended only 27 times since it went into effect in 1789, the Constitution continues to be the guiding force behind the creation of laws in the United States of America. Our Constitution, written more than 200 years ago, is still relevant today due to its malleability and indefinite explanation of the laws of the United States, and the limits it places on government in prevention of tyranny.
The United States Constitution has only survived this long because of its ability to adapt to the changing demographics and changing times. The Founding Fathers, in writing the Constitution, gave only white, property-owning males the right to vote.They could not possibly have foreseen a black man becoming President of the United States. The founding fathers knew there were events in the future that none of them could predict, and so they made a document that not only would survive those events, but would adapt in such a way that it would not need to be changed. The Constitution, by design, was left "open to judicial interpretation." The Founding fathers left it up to future generations to determine the meaning of the words written in the Constitution. The times have changed, but the words have not.
The United States of America was founded on the value that the government should not have more power than it needs in order to survive. The Thirteen colonies fought a war to escape tyranny, and the Founding Fathers would not allow their new nation to follow in that path. They designed the government so that it would consist of three different parts. Each branch of the United States government would be limited in its own powers by those of the other two, and in turn each of them is limited to those powers enumerated in the Constitution itself. The Constitution of the United States separates America from third-world countries in the middle-east and Africa. Even now, in the year 2012, tyranny runs rampant in those areas of the world. Without the limits placed on our government by the Constitution, our country likely would have followed that path.
By the limits it places on government and its ability to adapt to new situations, the constitution of the United States of America remains relevant. By the laws set forth in the Constitution, America is prevented from falling into tyranny. By its ability to be reinterpreted by future generations, the constitution will survive and remain relevant forever.