The Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com, along with Lindenwood University, asked high school students in the region to write an essay on what they would change if they were president. Fifteen finalists were chosen from the 300 essays entered in the contest, and the public was invited to vote for the top essay. Rajiv Tarigopula of Parkway West High School won the most votes and a $500 savings bond. The other finalists will receive $100 savings bonds.
Set America Free
By Rajiv Tarigopula • JUNIOR, PARKWAY WEST HIGH SCHOOL
America is at a crossroads. A perfect storm of global events has made an energy crisis imminent; thus, the actions the next president takes are crucial. If I were president, I would take active measures to reduce America’s oil dependence and move the country as rapidly as possible away from the inherent vulnerabilities associated with our current reliance on Middle Eastern oil. The fastest, most efficient way to achieve this objective is utilizing alternate sources of energy.
Many solutions have been proposed to our energy problem; most are far more environmentally friendly and diplomatically sound than the status quo. Increasing domestic oil drilling, implementing tougher fuel economy standards, and utilizing alternate sources of energy would all have widespread implications.
After thorough analysis, however, only the last, coupled with a powerful change in diplomacy, will result in a real solution.
The time has come for America to strive in a concerted effort toward self-sufficiency. Only by setting new priorities on our policy agenda, by reducing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil with alternate energy sources, can we as Americans cure our oil addiction and truly set America free. Therefore, as president, I would take it upon my administration to become an inexorable force for the better; to inspire the citizens of America to work together toward this lofty goal of energy independence. If we
can fi nd it within ourselves to embark upon such an audacious, remarkable, unconventional enterprise, we will surely be on course to create a more perfect union.
Education: Hope for the Future
By Razi Safi • JUNIOR, MICDS
If I were president, I would focus on the central issue that will carry this country into the future: education.
Education, although a long-term investment, will benefit this nation better than bailouts, mandatory health care coverage for children, investment in new energy sources, or the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Although it appears that there are more important, dire situations that the United States is facing now, the fact is that with an increase in education comes a decrease in these ubiquitous problems in the
future. Without education, society will never understand the effects of drugs, the difference between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in Iraq, the importance of financial security for emergencies, the requirement for energy independence, or the need for health insurance.
Education gives Americans higher wages, job flexibility and security, and growth in American ingenuity; however, education also gives one piece for prosperity that neither a government handout nor an energy efficient car can bring: hope. One learns that with education come endless opportunities
in all aspects. Throughout the world, education has brought hope for people. A chance for education brought hope to the young Afghan girl who finally learned to read.
It brought hope to the Palestinian teenager who received a scholarship to study in the United States. It brought hope to my father who strived for a better life for his family in a foreign land known as America. It is time for the United States of America to give that same hope to its citizens.
What I Would Change if I were President
By Jessica Houghtaling • SENIOR, MICDS
This country needs a big change.
Here’s what I would change if I were president: I would stop the inappropriate and nasty arguing and fighting between politicians of different parties.
If we are ever going to be able to solve this country’s problems, we have to get the Democrats and Republicans working together and stop the petty arguing.
The first way I would implement this change would be to appoint my biggest political opponent to a major post in my administration. Barrack Obama has demonstrated this by appointing Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state. A good move, but I think he needs to do something similar with John McCain
and possibly Sarah Palin. I think this would go a long way towards showing good will towards the opposite political party.
The second thing I would do if I were president would be to end personal attacks on politicians. Personal life should be off limits for discussion. This includes sex life, sexual orientation, family, friendships, etc. If it is not part of work, it is not an issue. I would discourage this behavior from my staff also.
I am not sure that I would ever want the daunting job of being the president, but if it were forced upon me, I think these changes would make our nation run more smoothly. I think that treating my political opponents with the respect and dignity owed to any public servant would go a long way towards fixing our country’s problems.
The Power of the Presidency
By Joseph Mozelewski • SENIOR, HAZELWOOD WEST HIGH
With the power of the presidency, the world can be changed. A president must lead by example
and motivate his people. Presidential power would overwhelm most, but not me. I know exactly what I would change to make the world a better place. First of all, I would work to make our country safer.
I would do this by enforcing and increasing the severity of laws against offenses such as murder and
drunk driving to increase the safety of our children. I would hire more police offi cers and security personnel. By increasing security in the country, we can maintain a safer setting for us all. Second, I would make our country a more environmentally friendly one. I would accomplish this by encouraging
the use of alternative fuel sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and water to save our planet from pollution.
I would establish tax credits to develop environmentally friendly energy sources and train workers for “green” jobs.
Third, I would also like to raise the minimum wage around the country and make sure American jobs stay with the American people. If our country is safer, greener and people have jobs earning a fair wage, our potential is limitless. As Americans, we can turn the tide and once again earn the respect and admiration of the world. As president, it would be my job to make this happen. These proposals would have a huge impact on our country and I believe would greatly increase our country’s economic condition.
To Preserve, Protect, and Defend
By Joseph Gazzoli • SENIOR, SAINT LOUIS PRIORY SCHOOL
If by some extraordinary means I were somehow to be elected president of these United States, I would merely seek to do that task with which I would be entrusted: to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” To that end, as president, I would veto all laws which are unconstitutional; I would refuse to let Congress usurp the power of the states and limit it to only those powers listed in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.
As president, I would pardon all nonviolent drug offenders; I would order the immediate withdrawal of all United States armed forces from the more than 100 countries in which we have troops; I would beseech Congress to immediately audit the Federal Reserve and to enact a law which would remove the issue of abortion from the purview of the Supreme Court, returning it to the states. Indeed, I would ask Congress to return to the states all those powers which have been usurped from them over the years, in fidelity to the 10th Amendment. Furthermore, I would veto all unbalanced budgets and seek the end of the departments of Education, Energy, Homeland Security and others.
But perhaps most important, following the example of Libertarian Harry Browne, I would try and stay out of the office as much as possible.
Let’s Change America’s Color to Green
By Daniel Draper Lynch • SOPHOMORE, MICDS
If I were president, I would change American energy policy to make investment in green energy a top national priority. Currently, America accounts for around 22 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions and consumes 25 percent of the world’s energy, but has only 4 percent of the world’s population. America spends hundreds of billions of dollars each year to import nearly 70 percent of its oil, mostly from unstable or hostile nations whose ability to restrict oil supply gives them considerable leverage. Rising carbon dioxide emissions are a major cause of global warming which, unless mitigated, will have many catastrophic consequences. These include an increase in extreme weather events, a rise in sea levels that could eventually flood cities such as Miami, London and New York, northward migration of tropical diseases, extinction of many species, and shrinking of the world’s glaciers. Meanwhile, America has lost 1.2 million jobs in 2008. Unemployment is 6.7 percent — a 15-year high.
A major investment in researching, developing, and bringing to market green technology in the coming years is central to addressing all of these problems. It will help us to greatly reduce our carbon dioxide emissions, increase the fuel efficiency of our cars, end our dependence on foreign oil, strengthen our national security, and create millions of new jobs that can never be outsourced. In fact, America could
then export technology instead of jobs. The cost of going green will be great, but the economic, environmental and national security costs of not doing so will be far greater.
If I Were President
By Megan Baebler • JUNIOR, URSULINE ACADEMY
If I were president, I would wage a war on poverty. I believe in a powerful country such as ours, it is devastating to know that while you are sleeping in your warm bed every night, kids and families
all around us are going to sleep cold and hungry. I believe that if everyone would lend a hand, it would better our society and we could make poverty a thing of the past.
We should keep our manufacturing companies here in the United States which would keep our people working and allow them to provide for their families. Under my presidency, big corporations would not be allowed to move outside the United States merely to make a bigger profit. Big corporations should not focus on their immense income, but on the outcome of the families they are hurting. I truly believe people living in poverty, if given the chance, would work hard and provide for their families. We need to devise a plan for a task force to oversee large corporations and to work collectively on national and state levels to focus on the working class. We are supposed to be the “land of opportunity.” Has that vision faded away? If I were the president of this great country, I would focus on the American families and grow this nation into the nation our forefathers intended.
Bold Change for the American People
By Matt Guse • FRESHMAN, TRIAD HIGH SCHOOL
America needs change. If I were president of our great nation, I would bring about this change with
the rights and interests of the people in mind, enacting bold reforms.
To begin with, each citizen of the United States of America should have the right to vote directly for their president. Americans have proven to the world that they deserve their freedom, and have earned the right to vote directly for their president, not have the elite few vote in their place. As president, I would push for a constitutional amendment that would eliminate the Electoral College and give each citizen of the United States one vote for president. State lines would be ignored in the presidential voting process, so that a vote for a candidate of one party in a state where another is favored is not rendered useless.
Ronald Reagan once said that government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives. I would make changes in Washington so that people can live their lives in a nation based on our single greatest founding principal: freedom. I would decrease the size of government so that we could all enjoy protection, minus the overbearing regulations an oversized government can create.
The foremost job of the president of the United States is to serve interests of their people. In the interests of the people comes a stronger population, which leads to greater international cooperation, and in turn creates a more peaceful world.
By Maffitt McDonald • FRESHMAN, McCLUER
The most important issue the president-elect is facing is seemingly the economic meltdown, but I don’t
agree that should be his priority. If this one is fixed, another will happen eventually. People need to be smart with their money and understand that education will lead them to a better life. People must be more intelligent and not make the bad personal choices (housing, credit, etc.) or allow the civic negligence (lack of foresight on stocks, oil prices, etc.) that sparked the meltdown. I believe Obama’s
priority should be education.
America hardly values education at all. The graduation rate for high schools is atrocious, and too many who do graduate don’t go on to college or trade school. This shows that Americans make one mistake after another. If people have better educations, they will have better lives.
Here’s how I would suggest solving the problem: 1) A huge media campaign — Obama has already shown his flair for that. 2) Make a high school diploma necessary for all job applicants who are out of high school. This will make education necessary so people might value it more. 3) Parenting classes to teach children how to be good parents. This would help the generation after have a better life.
In closing, the need for education is apparent. If the public is uneducated, they make bad decisions, which will have a large impact on the economic status of America. If Obama follows this plan, we will see the change he has promised.
America’s Greatest Injustice
By Nina Oberman • JUNIOR, CLAYTON HIGH SCHOOL
Our nation was founded audaciously in the name of equality, ensuring every citizen the rights to “life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Jefferson’s meritocratic ideals become void, however, when individuals lack the resources necessary for this pursuit. Such is the failure of the American educational system.
Over five decades since the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, schools remain segregated by the wealth of their communities. As president, my priority would be to close this gap, securing the American dream for all citizens — regardless of their socioeconomic background.
Reforming education goes beyond increasing government spending. To achieve effective change, we must reconsider how we perceive teaching, emphasizing engagement of students, enthusiasm for knowledge, and accountability for failure. Americans should view educators as admirable, encouraging
more college students to enter a field which they often shy away from.
Parental involvement is central to a successful education, and we need to support grass-roots efforts that will engage parents who are uninterested in their child’s schooling. If not, children will only inherit this indifference. Higher education must become more affordable, making it a feasible option for all students — not just those whose parents went to college.
Education drives the economy. It drives innovation. It drives community. If we fail to fulfill our nation’s most fundamental promise, we turn our backs on our founding fathers’ bold vision of a society in which all can succeed. As president, I would strive to make the American dream truly viable.
By Robin French • FRESHMAN, VASHON HIGH SCHOOL
If I were president (which I think is the hardest job ever), I would change the legal working age. This is an issue I would change because young people today want to be INDEPENDENT. I would change the age to 15. Kids don’t always want to look to their parents for everything they need.
Our parents won’t be there all of the time. We all see how our parents struggle every day, and that’s something we can help our parents with. Young people also like to stay in style with cute boots, coats, Air Forces, Jordans, Dunks, etc. We can’t do that without money, and our parents are barely able
to keep food on the table. This is why I would change the working age.
The second thing I would change is the gang violence. I would call a meeting for every gang member. This meeting would be mandatory. I would try to make this meeting as peaceful as possible. I would explain to them how pointless it is to kill someone over a color. There are even innocent bystanders getting killed as well. If I were president, I would tell gang members that it’s not that important to lose a friend because you like a certain color and they don’t. As president, I would tell them that life is too short to be wasting it defending a color that doesn’t care whether you live or not.
This is why I would change gang violence.
From Tolerance to Acceptance
By Lauren Caskey • SENIOR, VILLA DUCHESNE/OAK HILL SCHOOL
Whoever said ignorance was bliss was obviously not black and definitely not a woman. I am a black female in America, and not many citizens could understand the glass ceilings I will face. If I were president I would change the history course of education so that social awareness was a subject that everyone would take.
Walking in someone else’s shoes would be written into the history books. It would not be a few words here about slavery and the civil rights movement, or a few sentences about women’s suffrage, or even just a picture of Caesar Chavez.
It would be a total history of all peoples that make up this nation. It is essential to move past tolerance and closer to acceptance. This can only be done by learning about people who are not of the same race, faith and gender.
Ignorance is not bliss, and education is the cure to ignorance. I believe that every child has the right to be educated, and that same child should be able to see their ancestors in the history books. American history is not just one history. It is many histories — white history, black history, Latino history and women’s history. Because in the end we are all one race: the human race. If I were the first African-American female president, I would be shattering the prejudice gaps that exist in our society, and taking a step closer to ending stereotypical injustice.
A Health Care Reform for America
By Brittany Branson • SENIOR, FORT ZUMWALT NORTH
With this election being the first in which I could vote, I paid more attention than in the past. The
amount of intelligence and passion that each candidate puts into campaigning and speeches is inestimable.
As I watched the final two candidates work toward becoming our country’s 44th president, my thoughts were constantly consumed with things I felt were important and should be changed.
Coming from a working, middle-class family, I understand how difficult it can be at times to go to a physician for a simple checkup. There were times when a member of our family would be ill but was unable to go a doctor because our finances were too tight.
That being said, I feel that a universal health care program would benefit families like mine and those who are less fortunate. People can’t help it when they get sick, and the way the system is set up now, those with little to no money have no way to get healthy. What about those families who are working overtime every day just to put food on the table? They can’t afford to miss work but have to because they have no way to get a doctor and get medicine.
Sure, it would require a little more from us taxpayers, but if you think about it, it would be cheaper in the long run. This way, all taxpayers and children would have equal access to health care.
President of Change
By Darrell Stewart • FRESHMAN, VASHON HIGH SCHOOL
If I was the president of the United States, I would try to be a great leader by showing integrity. The first thing I would try to change is the economy. The economy would be at the top of my list because citizens are suffering, banks are closing, and the country’s in debt. However, in order to do this, I would have a meeting with other political leaders.
I really want to help the economy because I see people getting fired from jobs and kicked out of houses. This leads them into a downward spiral. I know because it has happened to my family before. It feels like your world is crashing down on you. I believe that with adversity comes strength. That’s why I feel I really could make the economy better if I were president.
One way I feel I could change the economy for the better is by making more jobs. These jobs would be energy-efficient to help slow down global warming. Most importantly, I’d provide jobs for families so they have a roof over their heads and a place to sleep. I would also try to make more jobs teens can do, so they don’t have to sell drugs for money. This will clean up our streets, and make our nation a better
place to live in. This is what I would do if I was president.
Invest In Our Future
By Casey Wessel • SOPHOMORE, BELLEVILLE WEST HIGH SCHOOL
I belong to the math team, the science team, the literary art magazine, and the school newspaper at my high school. On top of all this I’m ranked number one in my class of 610 students. If I can keep up this
crazy schedule, I’ll surely be able to make it into any college I desire. Getting into college, however, is not my problem. The problem is paying for college. My parents are not rich, but on the other hand, they are not poor. Even with financial aid from the school, my parents could not afford to send me to an Ivy League school.
I’m not the only student in this situation. I can name 20 people at my school that work just as hard and fi nd themselves in the same state. If I were president, I would make scholarships based on academic achievements, not socioeconomic status. Would it also be crazy for me to ask that all students in the top 1 percent of their class receive a full ride to any college of their choice?
In July 2007, NASA paid Russia $19 million for a space toilet. We can pay $19 million for an astronaut to take a dump in microgravity, but we won’t pay for the top 1 percent of our nation’s students to receive a higher education. If I were president, I’d invest a bit more money into our future, but maybe I’m just a self-absorbed teenager.