The Firefighter Christopher Santora Educational Scholarship Fund Website

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Kaitlyn O’Keefe:
2007 Winner
FDNY Engine 307

Kaitlyn O’Keefe

Winning Essay

For as long as we the people can recall, there has always been some form of power; leading or possibly forcing a lifestyle on people. When America was first founded and a form of government was created it was clearly established that there would no longer be a king, a queen, or any higher being to make all decisions. Decisions were and still are made by the people. All though America was a new world and for sure representing it’s people and all their decisions, it was debatable just who “it’s people” were. Certainly women were included in this persuasion? Not quite. It was simple to those in charge and the government officials; Women held no knowledge, their jobs were simply mediocre. What say could a woman have referring to government and public decisions? This is quite unbelievable and still mind-boggling to this day. In any case, understanding why things happened the way they did was not something these angry women wanted to do. We do however know, that as time goes on, those in charge do change. Out with the old in with the new, and with new come people with different views. Millions of democratic republic decisions have been made since the start of America. It took decades for any of these decisions to better the standing of women in society. We can clearly state that these Presidential Executive Orders or Supreme Court Decisions have helped to land us where we are today.

Government official’s certainly did not wake up one beautiful sunny morning and decide that this was the day; This is the day women will be granted power, all women shall have a say in the government and therefore all the decisions carried out by it, absolutely not. Since the beginning of time women have been fighting for their freedom, there rights, there allowance to be part of the decisions being made for their country, their world. It took quite some time for the men in our government to realize that women had been misjudged for just about all time until now, now being 1961. One man of extremely high power makes a wonderful and pensive decision by appointing Eleanor Roosevelt as chairwoman of the President’s Commission on the Status of women. John Kennedy was this great man that set us so far ahead. This put women in the limelight and allowed for public outreach. By allowing a woman to hold such an important position on something that was sure to catch the people’s attention, John Kennedy was making a huge step towards equality. The report issued in 1963 shows the substantial amount of discrimination against women in the workplace and proceeded to make specific recommendations for improvement. Among these included Fair hiring practices, paid maternity leave, and affordable child care. Clearly this was just one small step in the great path that women would indeed have to walk together toward equality, but it was a step further then any other government official was willing to take, let alone the president himself.

Now it is unfair to say that all this came as a shock to women; That suddenly the president had given them the chance to speak just what they felt, not quite. Women had gone extreme lengths just to be granted a small say. Discrimination against women was unreal and certainly unjust. None the less before being granted any credit at all they had fought their battles. When their men went to war, those women took over. They did all they had to do to keep everything in running order, and certainly proved that they could handle anything a man could. After the men came home from war women were expected to go back to their old ways of tending the children and the home. They had been expected to regress. Going back to their old lifestyles was out of the question. Unbelievable to the women, they decided to take a stand, they went out and got jobs, the ones that would be given to them in any case because they knew they were able and ready just as before. Taking a stand for what they believed in was not the easiest of tasks when the entire government body consisted of men and all seemed to be against you. Time does heal though, and as did the Civil Rights Act in 1964. The Civil Rights Act bars discrimination in the employment on the basis of race and sex. At the same time it establishes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission(EECO) to investigate complaints and impose penalties. This was one high step for not only women but all people everywhere. It showed that the government respected women and indeed granted them rights. Not to long after in 1970 in a court room, Schultz vs. Wheaton Glass Co., a U.S Court of Appeals rules that jobs held by men and women need to be “substantially equal” but not “identical” to fall under the protection of the Equal Pay Act. An employer cannot, for example, change the job titles of women workers in order to pay them less then men.

A great progress had been made. Not only for women but for the government and men as well to see that women could easily do as men do in every aspect. Obviously this was not the end of the long fight but these three decisions made by the government have helped better pave the way towards complete equality for women. Without the fight of the women ages before us, we may not be where we are today advancing toward a 2008 Presidential Election with a woman candidate. I am proud to say that I am a woman and thankful that those in the past have fought for my right to be free. To go to college and become whatever it is that I wish. The only suggestion I have to help our elected officials like Hillary Clinton make thoughtful and fair decisions is to simply think back on all you have and where you are standing and remember always that other women fought and risked their lives to make the world what it is today. We are free to do as we please because of those before us, please never forget what it is to be discriminated against and the struggle others endured to bring us where we are today. Equality is beautiful, let us never take anyone or anything for granted. Let us never forget the struggle and let us never put that burden on anyone or anything again.

Biography

We would like to wish Kaitlyn O’Keefe the best of luck moving on to Fashion Institute of Technology. Congratulations!

Some people live their whole lives with no emotion. They never feel passionate about anything or anyone. My worst fear in life is to fall into a career and lifestyle that I don’t feel passionately about. It wouldn’t make sense for me to teach math because I hate math; just like it wouldn’t make sense for me to go to a college that was anywhere aside from where I want be, New York City. I feel very fortunate to have found my passion at such a young age. My passion is the creativity that I use to make art. My dream has always been to create myself a surrounding full of color and life. Just as important as it is to have a passion, it’s important to know how you can turn your future into what you feel passionate about. It took me quite a long time to put together just what kind of career I would want after high school that allowed me to feel comfortable and passionate each and every day though.

This past summer was amazing, I had joined pre-college courses through The Fashion Institute of Technology. My course was exhibit display, and I had never loved anything as much as I did this class. It was a complete hands on experience. I watched as my sketches and renderings become reality. We transformed the room into window displays that withheld vivid positions and showed great movement. I didn’t realize just what I had gotten myself into. I fell in love. My passion was nurtured and truly began to grow. The entire class interested me and the professor was so much more than amazing. She taught us so much more than just displays, and exhibit design. I took away with me more then I have ever imagined when I first joined the class.

It amazed me that a week before class, I could know what my passion was and just how badly I wanted to do something with it, but not quite understand which field was appropriate for me. I looked at life differently, I felt accomplished and mature. The more mature I became, the more and more I realized just how my father and the millions of other firefighters had fallen in love with their job as well. It always struck me as strange how any one person could feel completely comfortable running head on into a burning building to save another. I always understood that this was possibly the most selfless job in the world and that only the bravest and those with the biggest heart could truly accept their role and duty. I really began to see just what it was. It was more then my dad and all the others running into a bringing building and being the bravest. It was my father and all the others running into a building with their closest and most reliable friends; brothers, to save completely innocent people. The thought used to scare me quite honestly. Now I know that when my father runs into a burning building head on, its not just my father running in. My father and his brothers run in together.

Needless to say I have more respect for firemen then imaginable. I understand just why their passion is so strong. I understand their connection to their job and the love they have for one another. I am more then grateful for what you and your family have chosen to give to me. It is unbelievable and unreal at the same time. I am however so very sorry that I, Kaitlyn O’Keefe did win a scholarship on account of what had happened to your son Christopher A. Santora. He shared the passion and the brotherhood with the men like my father. They are one in the same, and for this I feel more connected to your son and your family. I also want to thank your son and all the firemen, that each day willingly risk their lives for others put in danger. I now understand their passion and appreciate it as if it were my own.

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