Government-in-Action Youth Tour
This week's blog is written by Annette Calderon. Annette was one of two area students chosen to attend the 2017 CECA sponsored Youth Tour trip to Washington, D.C. Below is her account of the trip. We hope you enjoy her post.
The beauty of creation lies within our heartbeat. We begin to find ourselves through experiences that challenge and motivate the question, “Why are we here?” During a journey, without having to search helplessly if we truly open our hearts, the passion of our life will touch us with delicacy and embark on emotions we rarely feel at an unexpected moment. In that instance, we realize the fire that will encourage us to fight for everyday of our life. That is when our heartbeat has something to live for, that is when our hearts hold on for something to die for, that is when our lives begin.
As soon as I heard we were going to visit Arlington National Cemetery, I was overwhelmed. It had been my dream to visit President John F. Kennedy since I first started to learn more about him my freshman year of high school. Not only did his words challenge America by sending a man to the moon, but also something deep within me. I wanted to become the best American citizen I could possibly be in order to prosper my community and country. The words of John F. Kennedy will always ring in my heart, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Being in the presence of President Kennedy wasn’t the only reason I longed to arrive at Arlington National Cemetery. I wished to pay my respects to the lives that died in order to give us freedom. In life we go around wishing and planning a future and I admit to it, we lose ourselves in the chaos. Our lives become a routine, that is fine but we have to understand the importance of gratitude. We cannot just stand here in our world living a life while others overseas are fighting to live. Sometimes I catch myself thinking, we take freedom for granted because we believe we will always have that right. Unfortunately other countries don’t have such privileges. Humans are being assassinated for speaking against their government and women are killed because they risk their lives to have an education. We should be thankful for every opportunity given to us. Our complaints are heard because of freedom, yet their screams become whispers that never reach another ear because of dictatorship. So let us not forget the men and women that have given their lives to save ours. The lasting impression Arlington National Cemetery left me with was the most precious gift I could receive- a way of life. The men and women buried there, from decades ago to recently, dedicated their lives to improve mine without knowing me. A man can dedicate a life for himself, but if he gives his life for someone he's never met, he is a faithful man. This way of life says something grand about America and restores my faith in humanity because it shows that we are family no matter color, ethnicity or religion.
As the last day in Washington D.C approached, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was on the agenda to tour. Honestly, I did not take into consideration the impact the Holocaust Memorial would have on me. I remember discussing the atrocious event in junior high but it didn't effect me because I couldn’t comprehend the pain. As for in my high school career, we weren’t able to enter into personal detail because of State testing, but we did study the delicate subject. At the Memorial, everyone gets a passport of a Jew and you go through the museum as if you were them. Before the elevator door shut to take us to the top floor, the museum guide said to us, “You have to put yourself in their shoes.” Just like that we had become Jews, afraid to see if we lived or died. My eyes started to wonder, the elevator resembled a prison, bolted iron doors and ceiling, then I assumed, “Is this how Jewish people were treated? Shoved in a small containment area with twenty other people?” As soon as the dark grey bolted doors opened, we were welcomed with videos of children and adults on the streets searching for food. They suffered malnourishment, neglect, and poverty and through their eyes no one could ever imagine the pain they endured. I read almost every detail written on the glass showcases before the concentration camps, during, and after. It all seemed like a horror story rising from the ground devouring happiness, but it wasn’t a story, it was a darkened life for millions of people. I observed a gas chamber door, and I had to bring myself to see it up close because I was experiencing the life of a Jew. When I stepped away, I thought of innocent lives screaming and pounding on the door, crying to be saved, asking for forgiveness because of their race but knowing they caused no harm. My final stop was a video where survivors of the Holocaust recalled their painful experience. On the screen was a man near his late sixties laying half dead in a cattle car. The war had just ended, and the Jewish man was lying without strength, starving, and helplessly tired when suddenly he felt someone pulling him from behind. The Jewish man thought to himself, I will not die, I have made it this far, they cannot kill me, I am not dead! Trying to find strength he grabbed his wooden shoe and started to beat the man pulling him. Then the Jewish man heard crying, the man pulling him said, “I am not going to kill you, I am an American.” My eyes filled with tears as my heart dropped. This man didn’t want to die. He had experienced years of suffering, and the war was finally over, how could he just give up? We shall never forget the millions of lives taken and abused during the Holocaust. In order to conserve and protect lives, we must always stand together in firmness and faith.
With the gracious opportunity Comanche Electric Cooperative has given me, I am able to say, the Washington Youth Tour was definitely the trip of a lifetime. The memories and friendships I made will live inside me because of the impact every event and person had on me. I lived the history of our Nation by touring memorials, museums, and hearing personal stories. Every adventure has a purpose, finding a passion, and I can truly say my passion struck when I heard the testimony of the Jewish man. We are here on this earth not to make ourselves important but to better our neighbor. This is my heartbeat: I live to be a voice for the voiceless, a hope for the hopeless, and to give love to everyone. My life mission is to make a difference in the lives of my neighbors. In the humble words of St. Teresa of Calcutta, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”