2011 – National High School 3rd Place Award Winner:
Bertie Geng, New York.
Do the Ends Justify the Means ?
As children, we often dream of changing the world, achieving our greatest aspirations. Yet far too often, we are deluded by the belief in a perfect universe- one where the divisions between moral and immoral are immutable. Realistically, however, rarely do revolutionary achievements arise bereft of compromises in probity; in fact, the accomplishments that bequeath the most pervasive impacts often arise from questionable origins.
“Honest Abe” is a widely extolled president, both for his role in abolishing slavery and his ardent embodiment of morality. Upon closer examination, however, his presidency is one that reflects the abjuration of many constitutional rights. Not only does Lincoln suspend the Habeas Corpus, the cornerstone of American judicial system, to censure his opposition, he manipulates the entire legal system to ensure his re-election. To “persuade” citizens in Border States, federal soldiers are ordered to supervise voting. Lincoln audaciously rushes pro-Lincoln Nevada into the union and grants the commanders of military officers multiples votes- votes that would, undoubtedly, be in his favor. In other words, Lincoln, the trusted symbol of morality, behaves as a common bully, through coercion. Yet, are his actions justified? Presidents before and after Lincoln have suspended citizen privileges in harrowing conditions, such as war. Because Lincoln fathoms the exigency of winning re-election, through any means, he is able to terminate the civil War with a union victory, marking an ultimate victory on the path towards racial equality.
Beyond military achievement, often the most prodigious accomplishments arise from the allure of commendation. Children with even rudimentary education are exposed to biology, a field rules by the disciples of Darwin, Watson and Crick. What often is neglected from teachings is that Watson and Crick exploited Franklin’s X-ray crystallography in discovering the infamous double helix, and Darwin only published his views to establish priority after learning of Alfred Wallace’s independent proposal of a theory of evolution. While these individuals have committed personal faults, their accomplishments are nevertheless untarnished as they provide the foundation for an array of accomplishments, ranging from gene therapy to biomedical engineering.
Time changes all perception. Rebel Washington became president. Delinquent Malcolm X became a leader of the civil rights movement. Quixotic Gandhi became the Father of India. But what if the course of history changed? If Britain won the Revolutionary war; the civil rights movement was a failure; Gandhi failed to bring awareness. Because these courageous individuals saw the necessity of success, they sacrificed rightchousness for practicality. Washington slaughtered in a Christmas surprise attach. Malcolm X advocated violence. Gandhi led countless to imprisonment. However, these sacrifices pale in the shadow of the preponderant achievements that engender the eventual triumph of democracy, racial equality, and peace.
Our heroes have established their legacy through unprecedented successes. All successes come at a cost, and we idolize those who accept the daunting risk. Thus, compromises that ensure the amelioration of democracy, equality, and technology, even those resulting in duplicity, must be accepted. Beneficial accomplishments radiate luminous precedents that far eclipse that of any concomitant wrongdoings.
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