Recently, I entered into a contest with the topic of “Why Words Matter” hosted by my city’s Cultural Awareness Society. I won in my age group with this short essay I wrote with the topic in mind. Enjoy!
Could you imagine even a day of utter, all-encompassing silence? As a child, the silent game was always a frustrating activity — straining to express opinions, basic needs, ideas; but the frantic hand gestures and facial expressions always seem to fall short in comparison to words.
Words. Inexplicably powerful, yet impalpable to humans except by ear and on paper. Communication changes lives all over the world, alters the course of history, drives human development into new ideas and technologies that would be unfathomable to someone from an earlier century.
Exactly one hundred years ago, the motion to give women the right to vote passed on June 4th, 1919. It is a thread we can follow all throughout American history and world history as a whole: Women’s Suffrage, Civil Rights protests, Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat, the Emancipation Proclamation, The United States Constitution, and The Declaration of Independence even before that. Hard to imagine that in the 1800s women could not vote or voice an opinion when you are basking in the present day, isn’t it? Two hundred years ago it would be an utter shock to any American woman that I could express an opinion so boldly — not to mention on a computer (which would be unimaginably complex at the time) where I can communicate with an audience all over the world at the press of a button.
You can see the never ending cycle: our progress is driven by communication, and communication is sped up exponentially by human progress. Tracing back every single event involving people (whether they be good or bad), it all comes back to language in one way or another. Our shared ability to communicate and express ourselves is what links generation to generation and weaves a tapestry of diversity and development.
That is what makes the power of words so truly incalculable. One single author can paint the fiery crimson-golds of a sunset sky across the minds of millions, one eloquent speech can plant a seed in the hearts of humans all across the world… one single word can change a life forever, and perhaps even history itself. Almost every single event in the course of human history stems from our ability to communicate through speech or written words. After all, we have come a long way from our caveman ancestors!
So why not keep the trend going? Write a new chapter in the history books, make your move to change the world. Great ideas have brought us everything we have ever known, all the new technologies and ideals that would never have seemed possible in the past. But ideas are nothing if you can’t — or won’t — act on them. The way to do that is through words. A book. A letter. A protest. A speech. Even a simply-written, passionate pamphlet like “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine inspired countless patriots in the Revolutionary Era to fight for a cause that was widely considered absurd at the time (a cause which we now perceive as a basic birthright: freedom).
I’m not going to say changing the world is an easy task, because if it was, everyone would do it. But we all have the tools to evoke change in the world, and they come in the form of words and language. If you believe in a cause, there is no excuse to remain stagnant and helpless when you can speak out and share your view with like-minded people or (perhaps even more powerful yet) sway others to change their perspective!
No matter what others may say or what limitations you may place upon yourself, you have the power to influence the world. There’s no need to think outside the box if you’re searching for a way to inspire the masses… every single person has that power hidden right inside a box. Your voice box. So let’s write a new chapter in the history books together, one word at a time.