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It's Not OK

April 6, 2017

At morning assembly on April 6, eighth grader Anna Duncan expressed her dismay about the poor treatment of Americans based on their race or their support of an unpopular cause. Her comments follow:

"About a month ago, my family and I watched the movie Race. If you haven't seen it, it is about Jesse Owens, and it inspired me to write this speech. Jesse Owens was an athlete who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1990 for being an Olympic hero. Jesse Owens competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, also called the Nazi Olympics, where he competed as a black runner on the American track and field team and won four Olympic gold medals and beat three world records. But when he returned to the US, he was not recognized by our own president like the white athletes. It took 64 years for a president to honor his accomplishments by presenting him with the Congressional Medal of Honor, after he was dead.

"But it's all okay. The government set things straight. The wrong has been righted. It's just history. Right?

"Susan B. Anthony is yet another name who all of you should know. If you don't, she was an activist in the women's suffrage movement in the late 1800s to the 1900s. Unfortunately, she was arrested in 1872 for voting illegally. She was fighting for the right to vote, which we all take for granted, but to her it was a privilege, a privilege that she never got because the world was a little too late. She died 14 years before women could vote.

"It's all okay though. Women can vote now, and Susan B. Anthony is a hero too, just like Jesse Owens.  

"About 75 years ago, an executive order was issued by President Roosevelt. This order imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans just because of their race. However, some Japanese Americans at this time bravely volunteered to fight during World War II for America. Nineteen thousand Japanese Americans served in three units, where they proved their loyalty to America and with their units became some of the most decorated in World War II. But, like Jesse Owens and so many others, while their comrades were awarded medals, they stood in silence, forgotten for nearly 70 years. Many of these heroes died before 2010 when former President Obama passed a bill to award these forgotten soldiers the medals they deserved.

"But don't worry. It's okay. Their pictures are up on a wall somewhere with Jesse Owens and Susan B. Anthony in the hall of a-little-too-late-but-recognized heroes.

"When will we stop repeating patterns? When will people realize to think ahead instead of looking back. There are heroes all around us going unrecognized. Their causes are being trampled over by traditionalists. The world needs to realize that time doesn't stop for anything. It keeps going. You can't stop 64 years from now and say, 'It was just history.' The point of history isn't to make excuses for the past, it's to learn to not make the same mistakes again. I for one think that enough history has been made to say let's not be afraid of people who wear hijabs and burkas and let's not call homsexual people fags, and maybe we shouldn’t consider one skin color more worthy than another. History, the real kind of history, shows us that those kinds of actions are the kinds of actions that make us all regret the past. I hope one day I can look back into a history textbook and not be ashamed of what people have done. Rather, I want to be proud of how much society has changed. I hope you do to."