Please use your “outside” voice

Champion and empower…

As a member of Sertoma (a service organization), one of my duties is to read and judge essays submitted by 5th graders on the subject of freedom for our Freedom Essay Contest. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but after reading about a dozen, I began to understand what I was in for. Almost every essay mentioned Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation (my guess is that they just completed the part of their curriculum that covers the Civil War, so it was fresh in their growing minds).

It seems that what resonates with this particular batch of 5th graders is that Lincoln was an advocate for those without a voice. For many of the fifth graders, freedom is what happened when Lincoln championed an entire population and signed the Emancipation Proclamation. But, let’s not forget those who advocated for themselves—Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and the countless other slaves and abolitionists who spoke out against slavery. Because these people raised their voices, civil rights movements began and our country became the nation it is today.

Today, we have new opportunities for advocates. Be an advocate for someone with a disability. If you are living with a disability, be an advocate for yourself. Raise your voice, stand up for yourself, empower others. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Those who raise their voices today will be the subject of Freedom Essays tomorrow.



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