The Firefighter Christopher Santora Educational Scholarship Fund Website

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Brittney Bernstein:
2014 Winner
Bayside High School

Brittney Bernstein

Winning Essay

Heroes and legends consist of individuals who gain unlimited recognition in society. Although both heroes and legends possess the world’s attention, they may acquire the ubiquitous status through opposing actions. Heroes gain positive attention by committing selfless acts and sacrifices, often putting themselves in harm’s way; the betterment of mankind prevails over personal safety. They also accomplish their altruistic goals without purposely gaining the public’s notice, and consequently often attain the title of a hero posthumously. Unlike heroes, legends can possess evil or virtue. Those who seize negative attention through selfish, malevolent misdeeds never grow into heroes. However, legends who obtain positive attention through noble actions also classify as heroes. Mohandas Gandhi embodies the qualities of a heroic legend for leaving an affirmative impact on the world with his sagacious teachings and philosophies.

During the twentieth century, Mohandas Gandhi stood up for rights that had long been neglected in India, making him a legend. After Gandhi attended law school in London, he accepted a job in South Africa where he worked with the Indian population in their struggle against racial inequality. This work experience laid the foundation for Gandhi’s efforts in India, where the subcontinent was oppressed by British rule. Upon his return to India after working in South Africa, Gandhi saw the Indian National Congress struggling to cultivate a nationwide nationalist movement aimed at gaining India’s independence from Great Britain. In an attempt to aid India, Gandhi took leadership of the Indian National Congress and caused the Indian nationalist movement to expand.

As a leader, Gandhi created a mass movement by focusing on the peasant roots and spiritual traditions of India. He encouraged Indians to challenge British authority without violence, establishing his philosophies of ahimsa—nonviolence in the face of an attack—and civil disobedience—nonviolence against unjust laws.

Remaining loyal to his philosophies while fighting oppressive British rule, Gandhi urged Indians to boycott and protest. For example, Gandhi led a boycott against Britain’s monopoly over the textile industry. He counseled Indians to make their own clothes instead of buying and depending on the British. In comparison, during the Amritsar Massacre in 1919, Indians protested the government’s limitations on freedom of the press and freedom of assembly, causing British troops to fire on the rally. The Indians responded to the British’s violent act with nonviolence. Similarly, in 1930, the Indians challenged the British with nonviolence during the Salt March, in which the Indians boycotted Great Britain’s Salt Acts. These acts prohibited Indians from collecting or selling salt, a vital commodity to the Indian diet. The Indians had to buy the salt from the British who had a monopoly over the manufacture and sale of the product, as well as a heavy salt tax. Defying British authority, Gandhi led a salt march along the Arabian Sea where the Indians would make their own salt from seawater. In response to the boycott, British police arrested and physically abused the demonstrators, including Gandhi. As a result of the British’s violent acts, the Salt March stimulated international objection against British policy in India.

Mohandas Gandhi’s nonviolence policies helped India gain independence from Great Britain in 1947. Through his protests and boycotts, he showed the world how he could not be suppressed or ignored. Gandhi epitomizes the characteristics of a hero and a legend, for he sacrificed his own well being and committed selfless acts in order to benefit India as a nation; he went to jail and adopted a simple lifestyle so that he could challenge oppressive Great Britain. He even earned the title of “Mahatma,” meaning great soul, which indicates how he positively affected India as a nation. Gandhi represents how one individual can impact the world through his beliefs and actions.

Mohandas Gandhi not only influenced India, but also influenced the United States. His teachings of ahimsa and civil disobedience inspired future American legends such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. During a time when African Americans were segregated in society, Dr. King advocated nonviolent resistance against the Jim Crow laws, because he believed that engaging in violence would only feed the negative stereotypes of African Americans. Dr. King supported boycotts and protests, just like Gandhi had supported. In comparison to Gandhi, Dr. King also led two marches in support of African American civil rights. His first march protested Birmingham, Alabama’s act of closing all of its public facilities to avoid integration. As a result of the march, police officers used dogs, fire hoses, and cattle prods to stop the nonviolent protestors, and arrested and jailed King and his followers. In 1963, Dr. King organized the most successful march in United States’ history to show support for civil rights legislation in Washington D.C. This march appealed to citizens and lawmakers, and influenced the passing of a civil rights bill in 1964. Dr. King adopted Gandhi’s philosophy of civil disobedience and his unselfish character, and transformed life in the United States like Gandhi had done in India. Both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi sacrificed their lives for the freedom of their people.

Mohandas Gandhi encompasses a legend because he changed the world eternally; he turned his personal values and beliefs of nonviolence into timeless universal philosophies that continue to better society, and he forfeited his personal freedom in jail to attain freedom for his nation. He made his country a priority over his own life. Gandhi not only impacted his own nation, but also impacted the world, for he helped both India and the United States free people from societal oppression. Although, as a legend, Gandhi made the world a better place to live, not all legends enhance society as some derive from evil. Some legends gain infamy and notoriety by harming society and causing people to live in fear. However, the malicious legends are neither praised nor honored by others, and allow the heroic legends, such as Mohandas Gandhi, to save the world from strife.

Biography

We would like to wish Brittney Bernstein the best of luck moving on to University of Rochester. Congratulations!

School has always been a significant aspect of my life, as I possess an insatiable desire to acquire knowledge. As a young child, when the majority of my contemporaries yearned to be frivolous and mindless, I yearned to read complex texts or practice challenging math problems; the success of overcoming a difficult task was gratifying. My longing to learn, deriving from childhood, remains an intrinsic motivation as I continue to strive for academic excellence. Although I can be too hard on myself in my quest for success, I know that I push myself because the actual attainment of intellectual merit creates a sense of reward and self worth. In my higher education at the University of Rochester, I hope to study psychology and eventually earn my doctorate. The study of the mind and human behavior fascinates me, as I seek to analyze and understand the reasons why people act, think, feel, and perform in a certain way. As a doctor who studies the human mind, I will be able to help people mentally and emotionally; thus, improving many lives. My internal drive for academic eminence will allow me to reach my full potential in the field of psychology.

In addition to school, art has also played an important role in my life. From the age of two, I have always possessed a passion for drawing as it provides me with a sense of tranquility. As a child, I would mainly draw cartoons that I saw on television and animals; I drew from what my eye lens perceived. However, as I grew older, I began to draw from my inner being, as I created abstract drawings that unintentionally reflected my repressed emotions. Once I finished an art piece, I began to analyze my own work in order to uncover my own suppressed feelings. I believe my self-evaluation through my artwork influences my desire to be a psychologist. If I can understand my own thoughts and behavior, I can help others understand their thoughts and behavior. Art is the creative outlet that helps me comprehend my own being and guide my future.

I would like to warmly thank my senior year English teacher, Ms. Stabile, for extending to me her vast knowledge and infinite support, and Mr. and Mrs. Santora for awarding me with this special scholarship that will aid me in becoming a psychologist and hopefully being considered a hero to others someday, safeguarding lives.

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