Name: Madeline L.

School: Sheridan High School

Age: 12th

October 15th, 2021

What does the US Constitution mean to me?

America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. But what does being free really mean? As it was written, “We the people,” obtain unquestionable “God-given rights” that we acquire through the act of simply, well existing. However, in the beginning a person's freedom in America was determined by the color of their skin and the gender that they acquired through birth. Land owning white men were the only people that were fortunate enough to be gifted with these rights. Everyone else in our society did not have those same freedoms and their voices had been silenced. Luckily, in these modern times people of all ethnicities, genders, and religious affiliations have equal freedoms in every aspect of life and have voices that are being heard in every state, town, and house across America. The sound of freedom rings louder than ever before. With people far and wide speaking up and standing out, a new question arises. When does the age of freedom and understanding truly begin?

According to the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, citizens of the United States who are or who exceed the age of eighteen shall not be denied the right to vote by any State on account of age. This Amendment was passed by Congress on March 23 of 1971, and officially ratified to the Constitution on July first of the same year and changed a section of the Fourteenth Amendment in order to ensure contradictions that may have occurred. One issue that has been seen with the addition of the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the Constitution is how similar it is in wording to the Fifteenth Amendment which states that no State shall deny an individual the right to vote based on race. Some people have argued that the protection against age-based discrimination may not be as effective as the protection against racial discrimination due to the Fifteenth Amendment. Luckily, this has proven to not be an issue due to the fact that States are unable to enact laws in order to make it more difficult for younger citizens to vote.

During the time when the Twenty-Sixth Amendment was passed, controversy was high and people began to feel the same as our ancestors that were being taxed, without being represented. While you had to be twenty-one years old in order to vote in the United States, you only had to be eighteen years old in order to be sent to defend your life in war for the same country that you are unable to have a voice in what happens inside of it. It has only been fifty short years since this Amendment has been passed. There are many things that have changed since it has been decided that eighteen year olds have obtained the right to vote. The legal age to be able to purchase nicotine has been raised to the age of twenty-one much like the legal age you just be able to be in order to purchase alcohol. This has raised many eyebrows in the debate of what should the voting age actually be if being eighteen means you are able to vote and fight, why not be able to drink and smoke.

If maturity is determined by the age of a person, then what age does maturity fully come into effect? Is it when the brain is fully developed, or is it when a person is able to financially support themselves and begin to build a life dependent on their own income and support? This question is one that is not easily answered. A few years ago I heard someone say, “You can be an adult by the time you reach the age of thirteen, and you can still be a child by the time you reach the age of forty.” This is something that I believe that we have to take into serious consideration when we ask the question when the correct age is for a person to be able to cast a vote in the country that they live in.

A person’s age does not determine nor measure the amount of intelligence, nor the amount of maturity that a person has. What truly determines the core aspects of a person is shown through their words and most importantly through their actions. We can all agree that there are many people in the world today that are considered adults that exhibit behaviors that can easily be compared to that of an adolescent. The level of immaturity, selfishness, and ignorance that is seen in the modern world is no less than terrifying. These actions and qualities sadly are not limited to ‘normal’ class citizens, but stretch to reach the highest levels of our government, whom we the people, are controlled and represented by.

When I am asked what the Constitution means to me, many thoughts come to my mind. Ultimately, the thought of equality outshines them all. We are all subjected to the same rules and regulations that our neighbors, siblings, parents, coworkers, and classmates have to live by. We are all a collective unit and are in this country together. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, we are all a unit. We are the United States of America and we all matter. All of our thoughts, feelings, opinions, and voices hold the same level of importance and they are all that we really have besides each other. So in the matter of who should be able to vote, why not let everyone have a say. We are all equal and the same in this crazy world and most importantly, in this crazy game that we call life. We all have voices, and I vote that we all use them and be loud and proud in the action of doing so.