Nicholas Heiniger was born and raised in Marietta, Georgia. Currently, he is attending the University of Georgia where he is majoring in international affairs. From a young age, he has shown interest in world languages and cultures by taking Spanish and Latin language classes in high school and studying Russian through the National Scholarship Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y). He also enjoys learning about the law and government, and he has participated in the Atlanta Bar Association Summer Law Internship Program. He hopes to combine all of these interests in the future by working as a diplomat. In his free time, Nicholas likes to play table tennis and chess.
Click here to view Nick’s Winning STEM Project or scroll down to watch his video!
Our Interview With Nicholas
Was this the first time you entered the contest?
Yes, and I am excited to enter it again next year!
How did you hear about the contest?
I heard about the contest from Fastweb Scholarships, a scholarship database that sends me emails about various scholarship and internship opportunities.
What inspired your work?
I was interested in exploring an unconventional or often less talked about amendment to the United States Constitution. Most Americans are already familiar and fond with most of the amendments in the Bill of Rights as well as other, later-added amendments granting greater equality and expanding the suffrage, such as the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, and 26th amendments. I thought it would be interesting to examine the effects of the 16th amendment, one which I had often taken for granted.
What did you learn while creating your entry?
I learned about just how integral income tax was for governmental revenues in the modern-day as well as its increasing importance over time. From 2020, income tax accounted for over half of all governmental revenues. It is hard to imagine a past where there was no income tax at the federal level, but from 1776-1913, this was largely a reality.
How do you plan to spread the word this year to your peers about the importance of the U.S Constitution?
I am planning to further my involvement within political organizations on campus as well as participate in voter-outreach and perhaps even work on a congressional campaign during the 2022 midterm cycle. An integral function of voter outreach is informing people of their Constitutional right to vote. The Founders of our country created a representative democracy so that Americans could make informed decisions and freely choose who they wanted to lead. Through informing Americans about issues related to their community and how candidates will address them, people often become more energized and incentivized not only to vote, but to volunteer, to protest, to petition for a new law to be passed, to work for a political campaign, or to even run for office themselves. Through the engagement of any and all of these activities, the founding father’s vision of an ideal representative democracy is further realized.
How do your friends respond to history or talking about the Constitution?
My friends are also very enthusiastic about history and talking about the Constitution. I have a lot of friends who are studying international affairs as I am, and we recognize that it is essential to understand history to understand current relations among countries. Additionally, turning our focus to the governmental institutions of other countries in the world can often expand our own knowledge and appreciation for the U.S. Constitution through comparison. It is very fortunate that we are able to live in a society that gives importance to ideas such as freedom of speech, due process, and equal treatment under the law.
What do you love about U.S. History and the forming of our government?
Over this past Spring Break, I had the amazing opportunity of visiting Jamestown, Yorktown, and Colonial Williamsburg. There, I was able to see in-person many of the monumental sites to the founding of our country, explore revolutionary battle-grounds, tour informative historical museums, and learn more about both common and famous people from the time through re-enactments. I especially loved to see how the philosophical ideas from the Enlightenment such as from Locke, Montesquieu, and Voltaire became actualized in the founding documents of our nation such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Which U.S. historical site would you like to visit?
One U.S. historical site I would like to visit would be Ford Theater. It was the site of the assassination of President Lincoln in April 14, 1865. Currently, it is both an operating theater house as well as a museum showcasing many historical artifacts relating to Lincoln’s presidency. Abraham Lincoln was one of the most influential figures in American history, and it is always intriguing for me to learn more information about him. Although it is macabre, I think the story behind Lincoln’s assassination is very interesting, and it was an event that changed the course of U.S. history.
Which American historical figure is most influential/inspirational to you?
Martin Luther King Jr. is most inspirational to me because of his leadership in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. He advanced Civil Rights through non-violence and civil disobedience and was able to create the momentum and support needed for the passage of several monumental pieces of legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
Who is your greatest role model?
My greatest role model would probably be my mom or my dad. I am very glad to have been raised by such loving and caring parents, and they mean the world to me.
What in your life are you most passionate about?
I am most passionate about learning languages. To me, a new language is a new door opened. Through learning a new language, I can not only communicate with people who may have distinctively different lifestyles and perspectives than my own, but can learn more about their culture, their belief systems, and what makes them unique.
How do you spend your free time?
In my free time I like to play table tennis, play chess, try new restaurants and eat new foods, learn about new topics, tune into the news, and go to the gym to exercise.
What are your plans for the future?
In the future, I would like to go to law school. After completing my legal education, I would like to work as a lawyer specializing in criminal law and provide pro-bono legal services for the indigent accused. Eventually, I would also like to work as a foreign service officer as a political officer to interact with foreign governments on policy issues and negotiate policy.
If you could do one super impactful thing to help people, what would it be?
I think what most people desire out of life is happiness. What that means to me is growing up and living in a safe, respectful, and ethical community where peoples’ common needs are met and they have the freedom to live whatever life they please and explore whatever opportunity they want to without unreasonable restriction. As long as someone is not harming another, they should be able to pursue their aspirations in life. Anything that would get us closer to this ideal, anything that safeguards civil liberties, civil rights, and human well-being, would be my choice of action. For example, forming a stronger education system, developing and investing in infrastructure, and expanding access to healthcare are all things that I would strive to do to help people.
Why is the Constitution relevant today?
Although the Constitution is over two-hundred years old, it is still as relevant today as it was at our country’s founding. The Constitution both ensures that power is balanced between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government and enshrines to the American people a Bill of Rights to prevent a tyrannical concentration of power. In many places throughout the world, freedom of speech is a concept granted only to supporters of the prevailing government regime, due process is a promise tarnished by bribery and corruption, and governmental power is legitimized not through the consent of the governed, but by the terrorization of the governed.