First coined in a Fireside Chat radio broadcast on December 29, 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt promised military aid to the United Kingdom while the United States was still not yet at war. Many Americans were still deeply divided over the issue of entering or avoiding the growing global conflict. A Gallup Poll taken just months prior to the broadcast found opinions almost evenly split over assisting the United Kingdom if it risked pushing the United States closer to war. However, with the United Kingdom facing defeat, Roosevelt announced to a national audience that American industrial power must be marshaled in support of its allies and that America ‘must be the great Arsenal of Democracy. For us this is an emergency as serious as war itself. We must apply ourselves to our task with the same resolution, the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice as we would show were we at war.’
Over 75 years have passed since Roosevelt’s speech; however, there are still many challenges and uncertainties facing the United States and the world. For its 2017 student essay contest, The National WWII Museum is asking high school students (grades 9 – 12) to relate Roosevelt’s quote to emergencies ‘as serious as war itself’ faced by our country and our world and what the role of the United States as the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ should be today.
For your essay, please write a response to Roosevelt’s above quote from your point of view as a young person coming of age in the twenty-first century. What do you think America’s role – both at home and abroad – as the ‘Arsenal Of Democracy’ should be? What are the issues and emergencies ‘as serious as war itself’ faced by individuals, communities and countries in 2017 and how should they solved or confronted? Use events from American and WWII history as your starting point, but don’t stop in the past. Use specific examples from your own experiences and/or current events to support your ideas, beliefs and convictions on what the roles and goals of the United States should be in the twenty-first century. This is NOT a research paper, and the best essays will NOT be summaries of the past 75 years of American history or foreign policy. Your essay will be judged foremost for its originality, clarity of expression, and adherence to contest theme, as well as its historical accuracy, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Museum staff will read and evaluate all entries and select the winning essays.
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