How to actually make America great again
Ryan Jones, Division 3, College senior #ws16e-s3d3

America and its people are at a crossroads. War, civil unrest, rampant racism, and empty promises from leaders abound. There are politicians who promise to “Make America Great Again” but spew vitriol and hate. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are leaders who believe America is fine as it is. However, this ignores poverty, jobs lost, and fear people have. America is not great because of tremendous structures, powerful militaries, and influential figures. What makes America great is when everyone can come together in solidarity. Americans know when to set aside their differences and come together. The greatest microcosm of solidarity and unity is done through volunteering. It is beautiful to witness people come together with different backgrounds, race, religious beliefs, and volunteer. Solidarity and unity in a brief time frame is what makes America great. I will continue to volunteer for the rest of my life.

Volunteering shows what America is about and what makes it a great country. When Americans volunteer, it gives their nation veneration and appreciation. It helps remind us the pioneers who ventured across America and dared to defy the adversity they faced. Soldiers who sacrifice their lives in the namesake of freedom are honored. A Civil activist who wanted a better world for their children has their legacies passed down. However, what makes America great is not the extraordinary, but the ordinary citizen. Heroes such as Arland Williams Jr. are what Americans remember during the anthem.

Arland Williams was not a politician, celebrity, athlete, or activist. He did not invent a revolutionizing piece of technology or medicine that saves lives. He was a bank examiner born in Mattoon, Illinois. On January 13, 1982, an airplane left the Washington National Airport. The plane struggled to fly and eventually would crash into the freezing cold Potomac River. Many lives were lost in the initial crash. However, there were a few survivors. Helicopters would eventually locate Mr. Williams and other survivors. Mr. Williams was fully conscious and could move. He was able to eventually grab hold of the lifeline from the hovering machine that could have saved his life. Instead, Mr. Williams chose to drag those who needed help and were unconscious to the lifeline. The helicopter would take these individuals one at a time for a total of four trips until Mr. Williams was the last person left. Due to the bitter cold of the water and exhaustion caused by the physical toll of carrying survivors, Mr. Williams lost his life.

It's true, ""We see the best examples of humanity in the face of the worst."" It is saddening that sometimes it takes an event for people to open up. However, it is really something special to see when they actually do, despite the pain of the actual tragedy. It is because of heroes such as Arland Williams that I encourage people to volunteer for any organization that could save lives. It could be the American Red Cross or FEMA. Arland Williams did not need any incentive to help another human being. He performed the ultimate act of volunteering and it turned into a sacrifice.

After the plane crashed, there were pictures and stories about the good things people were doing for one another. For as senseless and tragic as the plane crash was and all the events like it that happen all over the world. It is something special to see the way people choose to help. Hundreds of people opening their homes, offering what little space they had, to anyone who could need it. Stores were giving away food, allowing people to come in and get away from the madness. They offered a safe place. There were reports of people walking down streets with water, orange juice, food, and offering it to anyone in need.

It is impossible to get anywhere in life if people are not willing to point out when they have been wronged. They are not going to get anywhere worth going to if they are not willing to question things that may stand in the way. They are not going to get anywhere that they may want to go by simply accepting what is given to them. When one we wronged by injustice, they absolutely must have the courage to say what they want to say to whoever needs to hear it. If somebody unjustly takes something from another, they have every right to try to take it back. It is our duty as Americans to hear from those that need to be heard and to help them.

There is more to life than what was taught to me. I volunteer because the kids in my neighborhood need hope. The kids of my neighborhood need hope they can be what they really want to be. As a community leader, I picture it, put action towards it, and never lose focus.

Being a volunteer means having compassion for others and integrity. Characteristics Arland Williams fully displayed until his last breath. Volunteering causes people to forget the turmoil surrounding them for a brief moment. Being a volunteer causes us to think of others. Those that volunteer are able to fill America's sorrow and mourning with temporary peace. An act of doing something to benefit another human being with no expectations means hope. Hope that there is still a flame lit in the American spirit. As long as Americans are still volunteering the country will stand strong. Former President Ronald Reagan once declared America to a “shining city on a hill.” America shines at its brightest during the times its people volunteers.

Americans do not have to be the next Ronald Reagan. Citizens should strive to live a quiet life of virtue, conviction, and full of compassion for others. There will come a time in everyone’s life when they have the decision to help somebody. Volunteering has had a profound and life changing influence on me. The most important thing I received from volunteering was courage and compassion for others. I have gained the courage to fight for those that need help.
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