Rachel Xu is a sophomore in the International Baccalaureate program at Eastside High School. She is involved with the Student Government Association as the acting vice president representing 10th grade, participates in varsity Girls’ Weightlifting team, having won in district and regionals, serves on the PALS Leadership Council, and is actively involved in Mu Alpha Theta and the Health Occupations Students of America club. Outside of campus, she is a member of the UF Classical Guitar Ensemble and the local Annasemble Orchestra. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering with local churches, nonprofits, and animal shelters, and her hobbies include writing and visual art, of which she has won numerous related essay, poetry, and art contests in the past.
Click Here to Read Rachel’s Winning Essay!
Our Interview With Rachel
Was this the first time you entered the contest?
How did you hear about the contest?
What inspired your work?
Seeing the efforts of American families and active citizens across the country on social media and in the news trying to reassert their unalienable First Amendment rights to free speech, petition, and protest and, in doing so, advocate for the causes they believe to be most important and patriotic.
What did you learn while creating your entry?
By researching the failure of historical empires and the ensuing downfalls of countless political and social revolutions around the world in the last few centuries, I gained a great deal of knowledge about world history, change and continuities in global processes, and, above all else, the ineffable genius of our country’s system of government as delineated in America’s founding document, the Constitution.
How do you plan to spread the word this year to your peers about the importance of the U.S Constitution?
Through social media engagement, one-on-one discussions, sharing relevant posts, and visiting historically significant locations and landmarks.
How do your friends respond to history or talking about the Constitution?
Like me, they’re very interested in exchanging ideas and sharing different perspectives on the nature of our Bill of Rights and Constitutional Amendments, especially as they relate to what we’re studying in civics and recent newsworthy events. We often enjoy having discussions about the nuanced modern interpretations of the founding documents, and take pride in being able to analyze and respond to questions about U.S. history in class.
What do you love about U.S. History and the forming of our government?
I love dissecting the fundamental guiding philosophies and ethical principles underlying our Founding Fathers’ central outlooks on how to run this country as a democracy and republic, aligning the dogma of Enlightenment thinkers with radically innovative ideas at the time of civil liberties, religious protections, and legal representation for all.
Which U.S. historical site would you like to visit?
The Statue of Liberty, because of its symbolic relevance as an international talisman of American freedom, justice, and equality, all core principles in the Declaration of Independence, as well as a beacon of hope for generations of immigrant families like my own arriving in this strange new land searching for an opportunity to begin anew and reinvent themselves.
Which American historical figure is most influential/inspirational to you?
Alexander Hamilton, for his role in crafting the building blocks for our federal government, championing the ratification of our Constitution, and altogether embodying the American dream of a man who rose from obscurity and impoverished squalor into the most elevated, stratified political spheres of the greatest country on the face of the Earth.
Who is your greatest role model?
Martin Luther King Jr., a man of impeccable dignity and righteousness who, above all else, viewed peaceful and nonviolent, but altogether meaningful and justified, political protest as the most moral and effective manner of galvanizing legislative and cultural progress.
What in your life are you most passionate about?
Defending the rights of the voiceless, whether that be through my work as a volunteer, my intended career going into the medical field, and, hopefully, through my writing and publications as a student right now.
How do you spend your free time?
In my free time, I enjoy sketching, biking, reading, crafting stories and poetry, badminton, learning languages, volunteering, listening to music, etc.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan on attending university, majoring in the scientific/medical field, and eventually obtaining a career in public health or affiliated clinical practices where I am able to aid epidemiological research efforts and promote the wellbeing of families and neighborhoods in my community.
If you could do one super impactful thing to help people, what would it be?
I would dedicate my weekends to volunteering with local nonprofits, whether that be animal shelters, daycares, churches, food banks, Habitat for Humanity, libraries, retirement homes, etc.
Why is the Constitution relevant today?
It guarantees rights and freedoms to the citizens of this country, and acts as a blueprint for what our leaders and we as citizens should be doing to ensure our liberties and Constitutional privileges moving forward in these trying times as we continue to confront issues of partisan polarization, infringements on free speech, political corruption, inequality, and more.