My Freedom, My Future, My America

August 31, 2009|By KEITH SANDELL

Editor's note: On July 7 at the Hagerstown Tea Party, the finalists in the My Freedom, My Future, My America speech contest presented their speeches. Over five Sundays in August and September, The Herald-Mail will publish the speeches given by the five finalists.

Today's speech was presented by Keith Sandell, an 18-year-old graduate of Grace Academy who will attend Grove City (Pa.) University in the fall. He lives in Boonsboro and attends St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, where his father is the pastor.

Some of you in the audience may be wondering why I'm giving a speech here today. I just graduated from high school and I'm only 18 years old. I'm here today because I know that unless your generation takes action now against this national debt and my generation follows through in combating this debt then it will be my generation, your children's generation, that will suffer the effects of this growing debt.


I would like to start my speech with a quote from Wendell Phillips, an American abolitionist during the time leading up to and during the Civil War. He said, "Debt is the fatal disease of republics, the first thing and the mightiest to undermine governments and corrupt the people."

Over the next few minutes, I would like to talk about the three things we need to do as Americans in order to address this titanic problem of our national debt.

The first thing we need to do is realize the severity of our situation. The United States is currently $11 trillion in debt. To give you a figure to reference this to, our federal government's income is 2 trillion, 524 billion dollars. That means the federal government's deficit is roughly five times its income.

As individuals, we are held to standards as to how much we can buy based on our income. When you are applying for a loan, the bank ensures that what you are lent is never more than what you can pay off. We as individuals are held to this standard, so why isn't the federal government?

But let's go back to looking at the $11 trillion debt. If that debt were spread out to each American, then every American would owe $37,000. So each baby that's born into America is already $37,000 in the hole. Is this the kind of legacy we want to leave for our children? What's worse is this debt is increasing at a rapid pace. Since Sept. 28, 2007, the national debt has grown $3.86 billion a day. If the debt continues to grow at this pace, then in 10 years, we will be 1 quadrillion, 419 trillion, 900 billion dollars in debt. We need to realize the trouble that we are in before the point of no return.

The next issue in combating the growing national debt is to cut wasteful government spending. I don't know if you know this, but in the year 2003, federal government misplaced $25 billion. Twenty-five billion dollars of the federal government's money was spent, but no one can account for what it was spent for. Twenty-five billion dollars is a lot of money and I know it's kind of hard to think of how much money that actually is. Let me give you something to compare this to.

Last year, Washington County approved a budget of approximately $250 million. So if that $25 billion would have been given to Washington County instead of being misplaced, Washington County could have run for about 100 years off of that money.

In addition to losing $25 billion, here are some other things our elected leaders spent our tax money on in the year 2003 -- $1,500,000 for a statue of the Roman god Vulcan in Birmingham, Ala.; $26,000 to study how thoroughly Americans rinse their dishes; $50,000 to fund a tattoo removal program in California. Here's my personal favorite project though, this one was approved in 2008. Our politicians approved $1.8 million to study why pigs stink. This, my fellow Americans, is some pork that stinks, and I don't mean the pigs they're researching, either.

Publilius Syrus, a Roman author in the first century B.C., said, "Debt is the slavery of the free." And he's right. With every pork barrel spending project, with every dollar that is added to our debt, we add another shackle to our nation. We need to stop this wasteful spending and work on getting ourselves out of this slavery of debt.

My last and final point is we need to become united in pulling our nation out of this debt. A few days ago, we celebrated our nation's birthday, I could see the fireworks at Antietam battlefield from my house, and I thought of the countless men and women who have given their lives to protect the freedom of our nation. And then I thought how ironic that it wouldn't be a terrorist or a hostile nation that would end the United States, but it would be us. I thought how tragic that these men and women have given their last full measure of devotion to ensure the freedom of our nation, but in the end, we are still slaves, only it's a slavery that we made ourselves.

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