I stumbled across this article this morning, about a Presidential scholar who decided to confront the President when she met him at an awards ceremony. It’s about a person who could not keep silent in the face of immense wrongs. Mari Oye is a very brave young woman, and I think that she deserves commendation.
As a general rule, Presidential scholars are chosen from among the finest youth of our nation. They are judged on things like academic performance, leadership, community outreach, and character. 141 kids around the country are awarded this honor, which includes a trip to Washington to meet the President. When Mari Oye received the award, she felt that she could not lose the opportunity to speak out about fundamental issues in American politics. Therefore, she wrote a letter which she intended to present to the President after his speech. Read the letter. It’s short, and extremely powerful…so powerful, in fact, that almost 50 of her fellow honorees signed the letter as well. Quite simply, she asked the President to stop condoning torture, which I think is quite reasonable.
Needless to say, the President was flabbergasted. One does not expect an 18 year old whippersnapper to challenge the status quo at what is meant to be a routine photo op. And for that, I give Oye credit. She took an opportunity which few Americans have to say something which a lot of Americans would like to say, demonstrating courage, leadership, and amazing moral fiber. It takes a lot of guts to do something like that…more guts than I think most of us have, and it’s awesome to see that being demonstrated by a young woman in this twisted, often frustrating society.
Here’s another article about the event, written by Amy Goodman. One of the people interviewed by Goodman says that “…silence betokens consent, and there’s a lot going on I don’t want to consent to.” In addition to being a great soundbite, it’s a very sound and beautiful thing to say. Being silent means that you are part of the problem, and do you really want to take that upon yourself? I think that we owe it to ourselves to speak out about something which is wrong, let alone the rest of society, and I am proud of these young people for speaking their consciences by signing the letter and standing up against government-sponsored torture.
“Never compromise,” someone once told me, and it seems like I see a lot of compromising going on these days. So I’m glad to see that strength of character does still exist.