Writing Contest Finalist
We’re delighted to announce the winners of The Nation’s eighth annual Student Writing Contest. This year we asked students to answer this question in 800 words: It’s clear that the political system in the US isn’t working for many. If you had to pick one root cause underlying our broken politics, what would it be and why? We received close to 700 submissions from high school and college students in forty-two states. We chose one college and one high school winner and ten finalists total. The winners are Jim Nichols (no relation to The Nation’s John Nichols), an undergraduate at Georgia State University; and Julia Di, a senior at Richard Montgomery High School in Darnestown, Maryland, and Bryn Grunwald, a recent graduate of the Peak to Peak Charter in Boulder, Colorado, who were co-winners in the high school category. The three winners receive cash awards of $1,000 and the finalists $200 each. All receive Nation subscriptions. Read all the winning essays here. —The Editor
Three weeks ago, I thought I knew what it meant to have an “out-of-body experience.” It took me a while to realize that I was going to have a much more literal one, with more dire consequences, if I didn’t stop looking around at my surroundings before thinking about where I was placing my feet. I didn’t blame myself, however; everywhere I turned I could see white buildings and old pillars, aesthetic aids to help place me in a state that reeked of tourist-like awe amidst a few square miles of presidents, progress and politics. This was where history was made. I was taken by the illusion of something profoundly thrilling in the otherworldliness of Capitol Hill, as if it wasn’t pavement and grass that I was walking on, but a place imbued with the power to change lives.
I didn’t truly recognize the people I passed, the staffers I conversed with, and even the Congressmen and Senators I met until I had a moment to sit down with a legislative aide and I realized—
They looked tired.
In that moment, I felt myself reconciling ideals with reality. These people were made out of the same stuff we all were, from the tourists to the bus drivers to the senators themselves. They have no inhuman powers, and what I took for otherworldly, was anything but; simply the work of human beings running on coffee and lack of sleep—not that they didn’t have the power to change lives.