2018 – National High School 3rd Place
Nicholas Rogers, Florida.
The Power of the Pen
“Words build bridges into unexplored regions,” wrote Adolf Hitler, an abuser of violence and the fürher of the Third Reich who also understood the unparalleled power of written language. Hitler describes the way in which written or spoken language, or “the pen,” is able to create long lasting effects on society as a whole, whether they be good or bad. Oppositely, the sword, or the act of physical violence, is but a tool of mindless creatures, and to quote Pope Francis, “Violence and war lead only to death.” Since death’s cold hands will grasp all souls in due time, one might consider the effects of death to be relatively unimportant. If might is defined as the ability to produce enduring effects of ramifications, then the pen is far superior to the sword.
Adolf Hitler is best known for his use of the sword to commit the mass genocide of over six million Jews, but it took years before this to brainwash the German people. In his political agenda Mein Kampf, Hitler said that “The application of force alone...can never bring about the destruction of an idea or arrest the propagation of it,” and he means that no person in existence was ever able to solely and successfully rely on the might of the sword. Hitler was able to gain control of the German people through his speeches and propaganda by playing into the emotions of the masses. He inspired nationalism and produced a notion of German superiority all through of a few words on a piece of paper, and it was the transgressions of the Germans that sparked World War II, which led to the death of millions, the formation of the United Nations, and the Cold War. The Nazis may be gone, their legacy lives and breathes in the literature of today, and it can be found in any history textbook across the world.
While the use of language can yield serious ramifications, it is also true that words can do sterling work for society. For example, the Enlightenment was a time in which ideas ran rampant, and they have endured throughout the ages. In John Locke’s Two Treatises of Governments, he makes the point that all men are created equal in nature, and that consent of governed is necessary in order to form a functional government; these two ideas justified the reasons for the American and Latin American Revolutions. Subsequently, they became fundamental values in not only American and Latin American constitutions, but in numerous others today. These simple words have become laws that millions of people around the globe abide by today-- over three hundred years after they were first written down.
Words can affect the world centuries after being created whereas violence and death are the only outcome of violence and death. For this reason, the pen is far superior to the sword, and to quote Robin Williams, “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”.
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