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Adin Ballou
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Peace Essay Contest

2016 Essay Contest Winners

First Prize:
Peace: A Symphony
by Rene Venable

My life has been full of music; I picked up my first instrument at age eight. As I have progressed through the viola, the cello, and the double bass, I have had ambitious personal goals of performing impressive concertos. However, the truly impressive achievements of my musical career have been my orchestral performances. Surrounded by others who share my goal of creating beautiful music, I feel empowered. My abilities complement others; there is beauty in what we create together, seeking harmony.

Peace means people contributing their individual talents to a common good. When we bring our gifts together, there is a melodious result. Peace does not always mean similar people adjoining on an issue. As musicians in this orchestra of life, we have separate knowledge and experience. However, by not elevating ourselves over our peers, we allow room for a mutually-desired, magnificent, tune to be created.

Peace means sacrifice. In playing a lifesong of peace, we must lay aside desires for our individual voices to be the sole focus. We recognize the value of others’ contributions over our own. If we all refuse to play the accompanying parts, the “song” will be a headache-causing slew of aspiring soloists fighting to be heard. In choosing to step back and survey the orchestra, we can see that peace is established as we lay down our own desires for glory and accept the less-glorious harmonies that contribute to an overall symphony.

Second Prize:
The Path of Peace
by Sheena Nguyen

A week of benevolence. In the beginning of my sophomore year in high school, I was inspired by a YouTube video; while urging its viewers to do random acts of kindness for a whole week. It showed how even small gestures had large impacts on people. I took on the challenge and complimented strangers, did extra chores, and made sure to spread positivity to everyone around me. Being able to make people smile helped me realize the beautiful results that peace could lead to and what peace truly is.

Peace is a path, a journey, and a way of life that makes the world a better place. Mahatma Gandhi once stated, “There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.” We must embark on that path in order to expel all negativity in the world. Consistently showing love and acceptance to everyone, regardless of race, religion, or sexuality, is the start to fixing world problems. Although many people say the only solution to modern-day issues, like ISIS, is violence, I believe using violence to defeat violence is like fighting fire with fire -- it makes it worse.

To establish tranquility, one must take the path of peace, a path full of love, understanding, and happiness, and make it a way of living. Based on my weeklong experience with peace in sophomore year, I believe walking the path of peace should not be for just a week, but rather for a lifetime. Maybe if everyone joins the lifelong path, journey, and lifestyle, Earth can finally be a better place.

Third Prize:
The Lack of Acceptance
by Zahra Ali

Sitting in my history class, like any other student, I was listening to my teacher as he gave his lesson. Immediately after he finished, I saw him approach me individually. He began to repeat the entire lesson at a snail’s pace, loudly, monotonously, and carefully. I stared at him, everyone stared at me. Why was he treating me differently? As if answering the question in my head, he replied, “I heard you don’t know English.” I was stunned that people had made that assumption about me. Was it my hijab? Was it my skin tone? Was it just me?

As an average Muslim girl, I have experienced different kinds of discrimination throughout my 15 years of life. The judgement and assumptions people make about others, based on appearances or religion, derive from the world’s lack of peace. When we come to imagine peace, it seems to be a place close to nature with an environment of happiness. This has just remained a dream for people like me who are living life with insecurities. When the time comes that a man who has a 50 percent chance of winning the presidential elections, decides to kick all Muslims out of the country; this is where you know peace will remain a dream. Establishing harmony throughout the world will make it so every person, regardless of race, religion, or appearance, can feel secure and content in their own homes. There shouldn’t be a reason for a person to feel disrespected for being different; we are all human. Peace, to me, is acceptance.