The American spirit is rooted in an understanding of our nation’s past and how it informs our present and future. To be a true American, one must appreciate our history and take part in ongoing efforts to create a more perfect union. By this standard, I became a true American when I was eleven years old.
It all started in fifth grade. My teacher gave my class a year to complete the “Great American” challenge, a series of tasks related to American history. They ranged from reciting the Gettysburg Address to memorizing all U.S. presidents to identifying the states and capitals on a map. Inspired by the story of our country’s birth and evolution, I jumped at the chance to learn more about our past. For me, it was like reading the beginning of a book, except in this instance, I already knew the ending. I was infinitely intrigued, however, with all that happened in between.
My love of history has endured through the years, and it has ignited my desire to become an active citizen in shaping our nation’s future.
To me, history is about asking questions: How did we get where we are today? Why did people make the choices they did? What can we learn from those choices? We must use our knowledge of history as we continue our quest for a more perfect union. And, ideally, we must learn from our mistakes to shape a better “history” for tomorrow.
With each history course I take, I am compelled to understand more, to do more. I have studied those who stood on the sidelines during pivotal times only to regret it; I do not want to be one of them. 2020 offered unique opportunities for me to develop, in spite of or because of the unprecedented challenges facing our country. I turned 18 and voted in my first election. As I educate myself about the political process, my passion to encourage others to vote has emerged.
To that end, I published articles in my local community on the importance of voting. Nationally, I sent handwritten postcards to voters in swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania to encourage them to exercise their voting power. I also took part in a texting bank that reached out to citizens in Georgia and Ohio to engage voters in a dialogue about key issues facing this country. I wanted to be part of the process as history was being made.
In 2020, I stepped into my role as a young American to fight for the ideals that our country was built upon—those same ideals I studied in fifth grade. And, in the fall, I will attend UCLA as a history major to continue my work.
Looking back, I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to be your Editor-in-Chief these past two years. Writing for the OLu Muse has helped me to find my voice. And, before I leave, I would like to share with you one final thought from the late John Lewis—words to live by:
“The vote is precious. It is the most powerful tool we have in a democratic society, and we must use it.”
It has been an honor.