For the second year in a row, the Bishop VFW and Auxiliary Post will be sending a local student to Sacramento to participate in the Voice of Democracy, and for the second year in a row, a member of the Blum family will be making the trip.
The Voice of Democracy invites high school students statewide to write an essay and give a three- to five-minute audio presentation of the speech on a theme selected by the VFW. The winners from each VFW post go on to district judging, and the winner from that contest advances to the state level.
This year’s theme is “Does my generation have a role in America’s future?”
Wesley Blum, a 14-year-old home schooled student from Bishop, placed first in the local Voice of Democracy for his presentation, winning a $200 scholarship. He also placed first in the district contest, where he earned another $500 scholarship.
Last year, Wesley’s sister, Kristina Blum, won the local and district speech contests and was first runner-up in the state finals.
Wesley, who completed ground school for would-be pilots at the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport last year, opened his speech with an analogy of an airplane.
“My generation is like an airplane taxiing to the runway, and beginning to accelerate down that runway called life, almost to the lift-off point. We have choices to make as we accelerate towards the future,” he said. “Does my generation have a role in America’s future. Yes, we do.”
Members of the local VFW gathered in December to judge three submissions for the Voice of Democracy, awarding up to 30 points per entry for originality, 35 points for clearly expressed and organized content and 35 points for delivery.
Past state winners of Voice of Democracy include Stephanie D’Abruzzo Shemin, a graduate of Northwestern University and performer with Jim Henson Company’s Muppets, and Dr. Gary Belkin, a psychiatrist at Harvard and Brown medical schools.
Blum said he hopes to pursue aviation as a career and hopes to study aviation technology in college.
He is currently taking flying lessons and eagerly awaits his 16th birthday, when he can complete his first solo flight.
Blum will travel to Sacramento Jan. 22 for a banquet dinner for the district finalist, a tour of the state capitol and an opportunity to see democracy in action.
Blum and other participants are scheduled to meet with Governor Jerry Brown, visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and visit the Aerospace Museum of California, during his visit to Sacramento
During his visit, the VFW will announce the winner of the state contest, who will receive a $30,000 scholarship.
VFW Ladies Auxiliary member Sharon Brown, who coordinated the local Voice of Democracy contest, said she is disappointed that only three local high school students participated in the event, and hopes that more students will take part in next year’s contest.
A similar program, the Patriotic Pen essay contest, offered to middle school students, generates dozens of submissions each year, and Brown said she hopes that older students will take advantage of future opportunities to earn scholarship money.