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Bernard S.
Independent VT

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  • Vermont Essay Winners

    by Senator Bernard Sanders

    Posted on 2013-02-12

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    SANDERS. Mr. President, I ask to have printed in the Record winning essays written by Vermont High School students as part of the Third Annual ``What is the State of the Union?'' Essay contest conducted by my office.

    The essays follow.

    Caroline Braun, Champlain Valley Union High School (Winner) There is no simple cure for the abundant issues plaguing our nation. Not only are we recovering from a recession, but we also are confronting challenges related to climate change, healthcare, and education. While our efforts to address these issues are noble, our failure to solve them reflects a more concerning societal problem.

    On December 14, 2012, twenty children and six faculty members were fatally shot in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Not only did this devastating tragedy leave close friends, family, and the local community in shock, but also the nation. Though it is remarkable that our country embraced the friends and families of those killed, we only seem to value such a strong sense of community after a crisis. The dramatic increase in violence in the past decade raises new questions about our current societal values and priorities: have we forgotten what's truly important in this new age? While we enjoy the many luxuries that accompany technology and contemporary life, has the lure of modern convenience eclipsed our fundamental human need to take care of and support each other, our families, and our communities? Perhaps it is time we recalibrate who we are and who we want to be as a country so that the fundamental values on which our country was founded can once again flourish. How can one pursue happiness without access to basic healthcare, food, or the ability to spend time with the ones we love? Certainly when our forefathers declared our right to bear arms, their intent was not for corporations and special interest groups to profit from its citizens being armed with assault weapons intended for war. Instead of unbridled greed and big business dominating our economy, it is imperative we support small businesses so they can thrive once again. Environmentally, we have yet to replace our dependence on oil with renewable energy resources and reduce our effects on climate change. And while we all agree educating our children is a requisite investment in our future, teachers continue to earn, on average, 12 percent less than other workers with similar education and work experience.

    As a world leader and role model for democracy and peace, we need initiatives that not only connect people and communities, but also ones that will act as catalysts for change. Increasing awareness of issues related to social justice will spark larger movements for societal change; whether it is reducing community violence, practicing business ethics, implementing renewable energy sources, advocating for mental health care, or investing in our teachers and schools. Instead of businesses and special interest groups being the sole influence on policies and the direction of our country, now is the time, once again, for all citizens to be heard, cared for, and respected. Although as a nation we have made and continue to make advances that were inconceivable just a century ago, our penchant for the new shouldn't trump our commitment to older values and fundamental human rights.

    Emily Ellsworth, Colchester High School (2nd Place) Social mobility is essential to the development of the American character. The ability to overcome class distinctions and succeed economically through hard work equates to opportunity. Yet current U.S. taxation policies are harming the middle-class and widening the gaps of income inequality, thus narrowing the window of opportunity for Americans. Federally enforced legislation such as the Bush Tax Cuts and the income [[Page S650]] tax on capital gains provide a disproportionate amount of benefits to the wealthiest Americans. This leaves a majority of citizens possessing less means to increase their income, obtain education for higher paying occupations and provisions for the next generation.

    It is necessary to consider the purchasing function and the insurance function of wealth. The quality of a child's education and neighborhood is dependent upon the volume of wealth the parent has access to. Children also receive a very different set of choices and opportunities upon entering the adult world depending on their family's economic status. To combat the further detriment to future generations, taxes must be raised in areas which will inflict minimal harm, and produce the most beneficial results. America is experiencing the largest disproportion of wealth since 1928, and current taxation policy not only aids in widening the income gap, but harms the accumulation of government tax revenue.

    The sale of stocks and bonds are called ``capital gains.'' Until the 1990's, the capital gains tax was at 28%. Today its current level is 15% which enables less revenue gained from any individuals whose main source of income comes from stocks and bonds, such as wealthy businessmen. In 2006, for instance, Warren Buffett paid 17.7 percent in taxes on the $46 million he booked that year, while his secretary paid 30 percent of her $60,000 salary to the government. Simple practices such as restoring tax rates to past levels are essential to the aid of our country's recovery and to improve the state of the Union.

    Gena Chiola, Mount Abraham Union High School (3rd Place) Today, we face problems concerning the environment, war and conflict, as well as lack of resources. In these times, more than ever before, the solution to these problems lies in global communication. If we put our heads together, and help each other, we can create a plan to reduce climate change. If we increase our efforts to work out conflicts between countries, through effective communication, less people will lose their lives through unnecessary wars. Sharing of resources can occur when we effectively communicate between countries, which will reduce poverty worldwide. All it takes is effective global communication to resolve global issues.

    One major global problem is conflict between nations. There will always be conflicts between people, it is part of being human, but how we deal with these conflicts is what makes the difference. Today, approximately 60 countries are involved in a war. Millions of people die each year from these conflicts. This fighting and killing is indeed a form of communication, but it is not effective in solving world problems. We accomplish nothing by killing people. We need to stop thinking of ourselves as being separated by national boundaries and focus on how to break down these walls. By communicating and working towards the same common goal, we will improve the planet. If we think globally, we will have more of a chance of communicating globally, and resolving conflicts through peaceful means, rather than war.

    Enter Climate Change conundrum. Climate Change is the increased temperature of the atmosphere due to human carbon emissions. Our use of gasoline to run cars, and oil to heat our homes contributes to the heating of the climate. We are slowly destroying our environment, and creating an increasingly dangerous habitat for all living thing. It is no question that this is a dangerous issue that needs addressing. And in order to address it, we must work together. Bill Mckibben, of Vermont, helps us do this. He organized 350.org, which is a global campaign to solve climate change. The mission of 350.org is ``building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis.'' He organizes global rallies and projects to bring the world together in the face of this crisis. He helps us communicate as a world to get the job done, since it can be done no other way.

    Earth's lack of resources needs to be addressed and solved through global communication. 25,000 people die from hunger every day. Other poverty induced diseases, like AIDs, cause millions of deaths worldwide. However, by globally communicating, we can reduce poverty. Global communication can help us redistribute the resources. Some places are brimming over with resources, such as fresh food, water, and technology while others suffer. The U.S.A. has an abundance of resources. If we use global communication to be at peace with one another, we can share what we have, so that less people suffer. If the United States were to share resources with poverty stricken countries of Africa, people in Africa would have happier lives, while people in the United States would still have enough to live comfortably. This can all be achieved through effective global communication.

    Global communication is the answer. If we all put our hearts and heads together, and forget our differences, we can change the world for the better, which is always the ultimate goal. Whether it's to prevent wars, bring the temperature of the atmosphere down, or to redistribute resources, it's undebatable that communication is what we need. Let us come together, and work together and never forget the importance of global communication.

    Bibliography Mckibben, B. 350.org. January, 2013, http://www.350.org/en/ mission Poverty.com. January, 2013, http://poverty.com/ Wars in the World, January 2013, http:// www.warsintheworld.com/?page=static1258254223 Statistic Brain, World Poverty Statistics. January, 2013 http://www.statisticbrain.com/worldpoverty-statistics/ Henson, Robert. The Rough Guide to Climate Change: page 1- 10. New York, USA: Rough Guides Ltd, September 2006. ____________________

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