In honor of Lester Smith’s 90th birthday, The Observer has sponsored a writing contest. Contestants were asked to pen a piece under 500 words with the following quote from Nicholas Bentley as inspiration, “Learning History is easy, learning its lessons seems almost impossibly difficult.”
The committee of judges is pleased to announce that the winner of the contest is Shea McCusker. Shea is a 2016 Suffield High graduate and currently a sophomore at Emerson College in Boston; in 2016 she received the Observer’s Robert O.Y. Warren III Scholarship. She will receive a $90 cash prize as the winner of the writing contest.
The winning entry is below:
Resilience: What Social Movements Have Taught Us
By Shea McCusker
History has proven countless lessons that allow us to look back on and learn how to act in the future. In recordings, textbooks, lived experience and now digital technology, we can learn about our history as a nation and a world with ease. However, learning history is not enough. We must reflect analytically on our history to determine the truth behind what it teaches us. More than anything, history has taught us the power of resilience.
Resilience, combined with toughness, is what allows for social change within our country to thrive. The Women’s Rights Movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century taught us this power. For centuries, women lived in oppression, unable to create a path for their own lives and forced to remain constrained to what larger society expected of them. There was no voting power, no power in the workforce, no say in what they were allowed to enjoy and believe in. From Seneca Falls until this very moment, the battle for women’s rights continues. This toughness did not end with the right to vote; today women and allies still are battling for equal wages and representation. Yet women are now able to hold high powered jobs and even run for president. Progress, through resilience, is inevitable.
Keeping a voice, even when faced against the odds, is the greatest lesson of all that can be seen in social movements, not only in the Women’s Movement but in countless others — for instance, the Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Rights Movement. These are battles that people took on in order to better their lives and educate those around them. While many of these groups still face oppression and hardship, those that came before set the standard to keep fighting.
No change was possible in society until a strong collection of individuals took the initiative, despite what was stacked against them. We should all keep these movements in mind, and the social progress they allowed for in mind, as we go about our lives, both to make progress as a society and as individuals. There is power in numbers, but also alone. Resilience is a mentality to tap into when fighting for that promotion, getting over that fear, or advocating for others who are oppressed.
While history has shown us what to do and what not to do as we move forth into the future socially, politically, economically and environmentally, resilience is an attribute that has led to great strides in change both for America and the world.