2017 – National High School 4th Place

Kaitlyn Chua, New York.

As a sixteen year old high school student, I have been taught a mixture of history, from the birth of Western philosophy in ancient times to the American Revolution in 1765. Despite being thousands of years apart, one commonality strings history together: the strength of words. Words have stood the test of time and, as history proves, continuously prevails over outright brutality.While the sword may pierce our flesh and ignite fear, words have the aptitude to penetrate our minds and influence our thoughts, clearly making the pen a much mightier weapon.

The power of words has greatly influenced society since ancient times. Socrates utilized his most forceful tool to spread his ideas to the Athenian people. And, by wielding his words, Socrates’ beliefs rapidly infiltrated the minds of Athenians which resulted in people challenging and defying the seemingly indisputable rules of the government. Inevitably, these new thoughts instigated angst among the Athenian authority; they feared that the commoners would escape the cave and discover the ultimate truth. In attempt to suppress the truth, the government unleashed the power of the sword to execute Socrates; however, the power of the sword was inferior to the power of Socrates's words. Despite his death, Socrates’ ideology lived on with his students and his students’ students, allowing his ideas to pervade exponentially. Although Socrates's execution daunted some people, ultimately, Socrates’ strongest adherents continued and spread his ideas.

The same theme still applies nearly two thousand years later. DUring the AMerican Revolution, the British suppressed the colonists. At first, the colonists did not question the Britain’s strength; however, the power of the pen allowed the colonists to gain courage. For instance, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense began to change the minds of many Americans and as a result, more colonists gained the courage to fight for independence. While violence did occur during the war, ultimately words were the pervasive force in the American victory. Words had the capability to unite a seemingly powerless people.

In today’s society, it is hard to believe that words have the ultimate power especially with violence ravaging so many parts of the world. There are terrorist attacks, there are hate crimes, there are murders. Sadly, the ubiquitous image of violence shown to us sadly no longer shocks us. However, as seen over and over again in history, words always defeat the sword in the end. At the moment, it may seem as if the sword is stronger; but, history will repeat itself like it always has, and the pen will prevail.

Physical brutality will only ignite fear. Words can be used for infinite purposes whether it be for uniting people or to inspire new ideas.



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