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On May 1st, 2011, the Sacramento Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility hosted the 2011 Scholarship Essay Contest Finals at the Dante Club in Sacramento. From 127 submissions, the following ten seniors were selected to read their essays before five judges and an audience of family members, chapter members and guests:
Nolan Wong, C.K. McClatchy High School, Sacramento
Ela Banerjee, Roseville High School, Roseville
Aye Khine, St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School, Vallejo
Kayla Carlisle, Golden Sierra High School, Garden Valley
Megan Donnelly, Union Mine High School, El Dorado
Katie Tanner, Calaveras High School, San Andreas
Samuel Schooley, Bella Vista High School, Fair Oaks
Alejandro Saldivar, Yuba City High School, Yuba City
Jolie Carlisle, Golden Sierra High School, Garden Valley
Shannan Takhar, River Valley High School, Yuba City
The theme of this year’s essay contest was a quotation from Dwight D. Eisenhower, WWII military general and 34th U.S. President: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” The following comments were made:
Nolan Wong stated regarding the military, “Only when attempts to dominate end will the world achieve peace,” and “we can’t use military to overpower but to protect and make things better.”
Although America has long been known to be innovative, its war expenditures are literally taking resources from its citizens, 43.6 million of which live in poverty. Paraphrasing a familiar adage, “A nation [rather than chain] is only as strong as its weakest link,” Ela Banerjee believed that military funds be diverted toward technology of life such as curing AIDS and green energy.
According to Katie Tanner of Calaveras High School, San Andreas, the financial cost of war takes away from society, and the victims of war are the poor, children and citizens without a voice. She questioned the fact that $663 billion is spent on national defense, yet only $46 billion is spent on education in the U.S.
Samuel Schooley, of Bella Vista High School, suggested that all nations contribute only 1.5 percent of their GNP to the U.N. World Food Program which would eradicate world poverty.
Alejandro Saldivar, Yuba City High School, stated that the U.S. has sent $1.3 billion to the Egyptian military since 1979. The United Nations’ yearly budget is $30 billion and the United States owes 80 percent of unpaid dues. He felt that if the U.N. received payment, more aid would be given to ease poverty in the world. Mr. Romsfeld also mentioned that $2.3 trillion has been misplaced. In 2006 the U.S. sent $441 billion directly to countries as foreign military aid.
Jolie Carlisle, Golden Sierra High School, asked that if China, who has the second largest military in the world, spends only $91 billion and the cold war has ended, “who are we (U.S.) keeping up with?” She believed the U.S. should not direct itself in the affairs of other nations.
Shannan Takhar, River Valley High School, stated that a country’s true strength lies in its economy, environment and people rather than military and defense.
The five judges were Dr. Bob Erlenbusch, Policy Director for the Sacramento Housing Alliance, Sister Libby Fernandez, Executive Director of Sacramento Loaves & Fishes, Dr. Sherry Magee, Professor at the University of La Verne, The Honorable Robert Twiss, Juvenile Felony Trial Division of the California State Superior Court, and Blake Young, President and CEO of Sacramento Food Bank. Following the students’ presentations, the judges commented that for being so young, each student understood the current social issues. Sister Libby Fernandez said, “I think this is a great honor to be among such young, educated and thoughtful students who think globally.”
At the conclusion, first place was awarded to Shannan Takhar ($2,500), second place to Katie Tanner ($1,500), and third place to Ela Bannerjee ($1,500). The rest of the finalists were each awarded $750.00.
The Sacramento Chapter of PSR currently has 500 members, 20 percent of whom are physicians. Bill Durstan, Chair of the event, stated that the organization came up with the idea in 2005 when they realized that the graduating students had lived during a time of war the entire four years they were in high school, and to question the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq was viewed by many to be cowardly and tantamount to being a terrorist. Some past themes used in the scholarship essay contest were: “War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today,” (John F. Kennedy); and “Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows” (Martin Luther King, Jr.).