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What are the Greatest Attributes of our Democracy?

Veterans Day tribute to American Adaptability
Claire Murray is a senior at Scituate High School
Claire Murray is a senior at Scituate High School

In the fifth century B.C.E., the first democratic government was born in Athens. Their democracy was direct, and each man was required to vote in every election regarding every law. While their democracy functioned on a small scale, these first basic principles have remained the same in our democracy to this day: a fair say for each and every man. Faced with inequality, the Founding Fathers reverted to this form of government; since then, each generation of American citizens has transformed it into a country capable of astounding success, driven by vicious loss.

The greatest attributes of our democracy can be defined by one noun: adaptability. And while I hesitate to characterize the greatest attributes in one word. I encourage you to consider some of the best, most successful movements, ideas, or events in American history. Each one of them was driven by a need to change, to create a better, more inclusive society, to adapt to new and unique circumstances, and to move forward. As the old line goes, the only constant in America is change.

Only look so far as our humble beginnings, the Articles of Confederation, a rough draft of a new country littered with problems; the Articles of Confederation were missing a strong foundational central government capable of gathering an army and funding it through taxes. Upon the realization of its weakness, the Constitution was born, a document that marked the beginning of a democratic revolution across the world.

Yet since our first voluntary changes, America has been forced through grief into necessary progressions. After 9/11, the country was reeling from shock and grief, and we adapted, enacting safety measures that are in place today. Through the work of the TSA, more than two dozen terrorists and supporters have been convicted in the United States of terrorism-related crimes. When faced with great loss and terror, the American people swore to protect the physical and emotional safety of all their fellow citizens.

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I witnessed this emotional pain when I attended a program known as Massachusetts Girls State, where I met an incredibly driven group of young women hoping to continue this legacy of progress and hope. I heard a compelling story from a daughter who watched her father physically regress after being paralyzed from the waist down in active combat. She spoke of how her family has struggled to move past that grief and how it was even a struggle for her to attend the very program where we met.

At the beginning of this essay, I claimed that the greatest attributes of our democracy are defined by our intrinsic adaptability. But I believe the greatest attributes are more basic, more fundamental. The backbone of our democracy is the American people, the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, siblings, nurses, homemakers, teachers, lawyers, veterans, politicians, students, firefighters, and everyone in between. They continually strive for change through progression and innovation. They use their life experiences every single day to ensure that others do not face the same hardships, and they fight for what is right.

Since Athens, people have fought for what is right, and today, our democracy is upheld by the sheer strength of the American people.