Carol Anne Costa: Voice of Democracy, VFW’s Homerun

Thursday, September 12, 2013


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The VFW Voice of Democracy essay contest empowers America's youth to make a difference in their lives.

You can take the teacher of out of the classroom but rarely can you take the classroom out of the teacher. So that is why one year ago, the old teacher in me began the process of nudging my niece Cristina, at the time a junior at Saint Mary Academy-Bay View to participate in the Voice of Democracy audio essay competition. My pushing and prodding (I like to think) inspired Rhode Island’s winning audio essay in response to the 2013 prompt, “ Is our Constitution still relevant?”  With her winning essay “4400 Words that Changed the World” she earned a trip to Washington DC, a visit with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in his DC office, over $2,500 in scholarship money, was named a National Merit Scholar, given a full youth conference tuition and trip to Freedom’s Foundation at Valley Forge and made 54 new friends as varied as the climates from which they hail.

All Winners

The creative and passionate work done by the finalists in the 2013 competition is laudable. More than that, witnessing the VFW in action providing scholarship money, educational opportunities, encouragement, and empowerment of these youngsters at every level from local posts right on through to the National Headquarters is extraordinary. The Departments, Posts, Commanders, Members and Ladies Auxiliaries who do the work of the VFW by raising money, and awareness to meet the needs of all our veterans is truly inspiring. By sponsoring this essay contest, they are living their mission to bring practical applications for better understanding of, and living our democracy, directly to our youth. From coast to coast, to the outer territories, and across plains and broad shoulders of this nation the youthful 54 winners gather in our nation’s capitol to be celebrated, cheered, and honored by thousands of VFW members from every corner of America. As an American, it is a sight to behold and cherish, and it genuinely clarifies the meaning of sacrifice, war and service. Mingling among a literal sea of veterans and ladies auxiliary members from WWII to Iraqi Freedom assembled to see and hear these students in all of their diversity and spirit is breathtaking.

The wide eyed youngsters armed only with a copy of their essay each escorted in by their State Department Commander to the boisterous applause of  a packed room is something I will not soon forget. These kids are a source of strength for both our state and country’s future. These young men and women represent the next generation of patriots, thinkers, questioners, innovators, workers, politicians, leaders, and veterans. They are phenomenal and deserve a great big shout out!

VFW Encourages Giving Back

As part of her year as the RI’s Voice of Democracy winner Cristina was asked along the way to participate in VFW conventions and memorial services honoring our veterans. As I listened to her remarks at the annual memorial service held on June 7, 2013 it solidified for the teacher in me that this  experience provided by the VFW is indeed transformative. She told veterans gathered, “Because of you all and the RI VFW’s Voice of Democracy program I was able to gather with 54 of this nation’s young, smart and patriotic high school students from Alaska to Guam. I can report that they and I truly understand the value of military service and the price of freedom. It is youngsters like us who will continue to celebrate the service of our veterans and continue support the efforts of the VFW and it mighty mission.” She continued, “As part of your service to this nation, I realize more thoroughly the code by which you live. As we take time to remember and reflect, I remember and honor the veterans in my life and each one of you. I thank you for your service and I promise to always treasure and value it as I enjoy the freedoms which it provides.”

A Call to the Best and Brightest

It’s that time of year again, school is back in session, and the apples are as crisp as the air and time to consider this great chance to write about the country we share. You know how teachers get in September; all full of vim and vigor and I take this time to eagerly and publicly push and prod (I know your workload is immense) high school and middle school students from all over our state to consider participating in this simply terrific program. As the November 1, 2013 deadline for entries draws near get out your pens, fire up your MP3 recorders, find your voices and respond to this year’s prompt: “Why I’m Optimistic About Our Nation’s Future.” And the call to middle-schoolers to the junior division called the The Patriot’s Pen competition asking kids in grades 6-8 to reflect on the statement, “What Patriotism Means to Me.”

The VFW mission for the competition is so direct and pure; VFW’s Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen essay competitions are dedicated to promoting patriotism among our nation’s youth. Students are asked to submit an audio essay in response to a question or statement on a subject that prompts them to consider how democratic ideals and principles apply to their lives. For more about the competition please visit the Voice of Democracy page on the VFW website. For more info on your local post, visit the VFW Department of Rhode Island at I cannot say enough about this chance for Rhode Island students to make their voices heard. So consider this my virtual nudge, it is well worth the effort. I eagerly wait to hear the 2014 Rhode Island Voice of Democracy winning essay...Who knows? Perhaps the RI winner will grab the $30,000 national scholarship award! Good luck. Now get writing and recording! Happy back to school to all!


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A public relations and community outreach specialist, Carol has experience in both the public and private sectors. She is the Chairwoman of the Scituate Democratic Town Committee and has extensive community affairs and public relations experience. She previously served in the Rhode Island Judiciary for nearly 17 years. Carol also enjoyed a successful development stint at the Diocese of Providence as Associate Director for Catholic Education and is currently a public housing manager for the Johnston Housing Authority. Her work has been published in several local outlets including: GoLocalProv, Valley Breeze, The Rhode Island Catholic, and Currents Magazine.


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