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Marissa Doody:
2015 Winner
FDNY Ladder 154

Marissa Doody

Winning Essay

The Pledge of Allegiance is something that is recited everyday by children in schools across America. The closing line of the pledge is “and justice for all”. The concept of “justice for all” has always been a controversial one, and Americans are constantly divided over what it actually means. This is especially true in recent month, in light of the events that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City. No matter how controversial it is, though, the concept of “justice for all” will always have a meaning to me, and to our nation.

Justice, to me, means that the right thing is done to resolve a wrongdoing. As an American citizen, I place great importance on justice. To be comfortable living in this country, I need to feel that it will serve justice if I am ever involved in a situation where someone does the wrong thing to me. I, as almost every American does in at least one point in their life, wanted justice for a wrongdoing. At the start of fifth grade, my parents gave me my first laptop so I could have a nice computer to complete my schoolwork on. However, one night in the late fall I forgot to put my laptop back on the keyboard tray of my desk, which kept it out of view to anyone who was in my room. The next day, I came home from school and went up to my room to find that my laptop was gone. When I told my mom this, she sent my sister and I to my neighbor’s house to be safe since we were unsure if the perpetrator was still in the house, and she looked around the house to see if they took anything else. The burglar also ended up stealing my dad’s iPod. While I realize that this could have been much worse, which I am thankful that it was not, it was still upsetting that my brand new laptop was stolen. All I hoped for was that the police would catch the person that did that, and I would get my laptop back. I hoped that the police and the court system would serve justice to the person that stole my family’s property. While I never did learn whether the criminal was caught or not, but I was glad that the police showed up to help. Seeing that the police would show up for any possible crime, no matter how small, gave me faith in our government to protect me and provide “justice for all”.

The right of the American people to have justice was important even at the birth of our nation. Justice, and the protection of it, is one of the principles that our nation was founded on. When our country was still a group of colonies under British rule, the people began to become angry about being constantly taxed on almost every product that they used and being generally mistreated, they began to rebel. Eventually, since the colonists became tired of the taxation that they deemed unjust, they chose to break away from Britain. They did not just want independence, but they also wanted justice. When the Americans finally won the Revolution, they had to create a new government that avoided the pitfalls of the tyranny that ruled them before. A group of middle aged white men who were well-educated, known today as the founding fathers, began to draft a constitution that would become the basis of America’s government. When writing the Constitution, the founding fathers went to great lengths to ensure that justice would be given to those who deserved it, and made it so there was as little room for error as possible. In fact, some of the founding fathers refused to approve the Constitution as the new American government without protecting the rights that would ensure justice for all. This is the reason that, today, we have the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. The Bill of Rights gives a specific list of enumerated rights, and some that are implied, and it is the expectation that the government will always protect those rights, which ensures “justice for all”.

The next significant point in America’s history in which justice was debated was the time leading up to and during the Civil War. During this time, many people felt that the government was not protecting them and giving the justice that they felt was necessary. The issue of slavery is the reason that justice was a controversial concept at this time. Basically, it was the main cause of the secession of the southern states. On one hand, the white southerners, who depended on slave labor to work the plantations, felt that they were not given justice when runaway slaves would not be returned from the North. To them, the slaves were property, so they felt that their right to property were not being protected and they saw that as unjust. On the other hand, the slaves felt that they were being deprived of their life and liberty by being forced into eternal servitude. This made them feel that they weren’t protected, which they saw as unjust. When these conflicting interests came to a head, the southern states seceded and the Civil War began. However, when this war ended, even though slavery was abolished, the issues that these people had with the concept of justice. It made people question whether there really was such a thing as “justice for all”.

Ever since the Civil War, there has been a fairly consistent racial divide when it comes to people’s views on the concept of “justice for all”. The white southerners, who lost the war, were forced to rejoin the Union and they were very hostile because they felt it was unjust that their slaves were taken away. The freed blacks felt that they were still being treated unjustly, as the government did not try very hard to protect their rights as citizens. This continued all the way into the 1960’s when the civil rights movement was a success. The next time that there was increased controversy over justice brings us to today in the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City. Both men lost their lives in incidents that involved white police officers. The black community feels that there was no justice for their deaths, as the white officers who had a hand in their deaths were not indicted on the murder charges that they were accused of, and they believe that race played a role in this. These issues have not been fully resolved, and only time will tell if there will be “justice for all” in the end.

The Pledge of Allegiance is a statement of loyalty to our nation’s flag that is recited every day by millions of Americans. It contains all of our country’s most important principles. Among them is the idea of “justice for all”. Having justice is critical to having a peaceful nation. The subject has been receiving more attention in recent months, because of the incidents with Michael Brown and Eric Garner. No matter if everyone in America can agree on it, the idea of “justice for all” will always have meaning to every American citizen.


My name is Marissa Doody and I am a senior at East Meadow High School. I live in East Meadow, New York with my parents and my twin sister. My mom works as a secretary and my dad is a lieutenant in Ladder 154 of the New York City Fire Department. Some activities I enjoy include bike riding, swimming, kayaking, and paddle boarding. I also enjoy spending time with my extended family, whether it be just hanging out, at family parties, or on vacation.

I am a member of the National Honor Society, Science Honor Society, and Spanish Honor Society, as well as Key Club and Environmental Club. I am also the treasurer of the Spanish Honor Society. In addition, I have also participated in my school’s field hockey and bowling teams. This year, I was the captain of the bowling team. Outside of school, I am a competitive dancer. My favorite style of dance is tap, although I also enjoy the other styles. With my dance team, I attend regional and national dance competitions.

This fall, I will be attending St. John’s University. As of now, I don’t know what I would like to major in, but I look forward to my next four years there.

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