By Sydney Jones

For the Purple Heart veterans of Lynchburg, their service never fully stops when they retire, but transitions into volunteer work serving their fellow veterans and community members.

“As a Vietnam veteran, we were treated terribly,” said Gary Witt, who is the Commander of the Lynchburg chapter of The Military Order of the Purple Heart. “We’re now trying to make ourselves recognized and be involved in our local community so that doesn’t happen again.”

There are many different outreach opportunities that the veterans are involved in, like benefit luncheons, fundraising and automobile donations to disabled or veterans in need. They are also partnering with the Desmond Doss Memorial Run in October to raise awareness for local veterans.

Since the city of Lynchburg joined the Purple Heart community in April 2016, the city’s leaders have been dedicated to raising awareness for veterans and Purple Heart recipients and have set up Purple Heart parking signs at locations all over the city.

“When Lynchburg became a purple heart city, they challenged all of the surrounding communities to become purple heart communities. This eventually turned into the purple heart trail,” said Witt.

According to the Purple Heart website, The Purple Heart Trail was created in 1992 and honors all the men and women who have received the Purple Heart medal and is marked by signs along various highways.

“Some of the things we’ve done to gain recognition has brought the Lynchburg community together; we want to make sure veterans and others who live in Lynchburg know we’re here if they need us,” Witt said.

They have also been increasing outreach to universities which led them to set up a booth at Get Downtown, an event the city of Lynchburg hosts in order to connect college students with local culture.

“We are trying to reach the students coming here, it’s hard to get young people involved because they don’t realize the impact of the military.” said Witt about the importance of reaching out to a younger generation. “I remember when I came back, I wanted nothing to do with veterans. But spreading awareness with different events is important to create a relationship with young people.”

This summer Liberty University was the first college campus in the state of Virginia to become a Purple Heart campus. There is now a reserved parking spot for veterans at DeMoss hall and on November 11, Liberty will host the Lynchburg Veterans Parade.

Veterans are some of the most important members of a community, and it is extremely important for younger people to connect and serve with them in order to create a stronger bond between generations.

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Political Holocaust: Why Tim Allen’s Comments Are So Problematic

By Sydney Jones

Tim Allen compares his experience as a conservative in Hollywood to being shunned by your friends, wearing a degrading sign on all of your clothing, constantly beaten, starved and eventually murdered.

“If you don’t believe what everyone believes, this is like 30s Germany, if you’re not part of the group,” Allen said on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on March 17.

One of the reasons why America is such an amazing country is the fact that we are able to have political minorities whose voice can still be heard and respected. That is why I cannot understand Allen’s logic behind attempting to equate the clash between differing opinions with racism.

Once you examine the historical facts, his statements seem ludicrous. The blatant racism and hatred that minority groups have dealt with in the past overshadows the slight backlash that conservatives receive many times over.

“In 1935 the Nazis announced new laws that make Jews second-class citizens and revoke most of their political rights,” said a statement on the United States Holocaust Museum website. “Further, Jews [were] prohibited from marrying or having sexual relations with persons of ‘German or related blood.”

None of these things are currently happening to the Hollywood elite. There is, however, many statements from both liberal and conservative entertainers that are not being supported by fact. Instead, tolerance is claimed as a way to avoid debate or confrontation.

The majority of entertainers in Hollywood are liberal, with over 70 percent of those who live in the county voting for Hilary Clinton, and because of this many conservative entertainers are afraid to vocalize their beliefs. But I wonder if the real reason they are afraid of expressing them is because they are afraid of having to support them.

“Tim, have you lost your mind?” Steven Goldstein, the Executive Director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, said. “No one in Hollywood today is subjecting you or anyone else to what the Nazis imposed on Jews in the 1930s – the world’s most evil program of dehumanization, imprisonment and mass brutality, implemented by an entire national government, as the prelude for the genocide of nearly an entire people.”

There is a stark difference between clashing opinions and a direct attack on another person’s beliefs. I believe that challenging opposing views and open discussion is necessary for a society’s progression.

“What I find odd about Hollywood is they didn’t like Trump because he was a bully. But if you had any kind of inkling that you were for Trump, you got bullied,” said Allen in an interview with Megyn Kelly.

Being a political minority is not a bad thing. However, when someone starts to juxtapose that with such a horrific event, people are naturally going to speak out against that rhetoric. I do not necessarily view that as bullying.

I believe that Allen’s remarks, joking or not, show how fearful many people are to stand up for what they believe in. There are problems on both sides of the argument, but I believe the first step to change the status quo is to be unashamedly outspoken in order to encourage debate and discussion.

Only then can we change people’s minds.

Don’t Fix What Ain’t Broke: A Response To Liberty’s New Attendance Policy

By Sydney Jones

Students at Liberty University were left shocked when an important policy regarding attendance was changed for the Spring 2017 semester.

The registrar’s office released a statement on Dec. 19, 2016, outlining the new policy. This new system is applicable to 100 and 200 level classes, and students are permitted a limited number of elective absences. These absences now include nonattendance for sickness even if the student has a doctor’s note.

Many students are angry and confused with the changes, mainly due to its vague nature and because there was no official widespread announcement.

“A major problem with the new policy is that it’s not clear. Even my professors didn’t understand it, some of them didn’t even bother to go over it with us,” said Laurel Woodruff.

Confusion seems to be a common theme throughout classes. For example, the current Theology 202 syllabus still claims that doctor’s notes are accepted as an excused absence, while other classes like Arts 222 and Government 200 state that doctor’s notes are accepted but are also counted as an absence.

“I understand that we’re paying for this education so we need to show up for class, but if I have a doctor appointment, that shouldn’t have to be one of only four elective absences if you were legitimately sick,” said Daelynn Christman. “I think they have good intentions, but I’m not sure this is the best method.”

According to the registrar’s statement, the attendance policy is to make sure that students understand the university’s expectancies. However, I do not believe the university should hold students liable for being sick, which is something out of their control.

Before the new policy was implemented, many students used their allowed skips to do things like leave early to travel home, to study for an important test in another class or when they felt too sick to attend class but not sick enough to pay for a doctor’s visit.

“Sometimes managing your time well means skipping your 8:15 a.m. class to get sleep or study for a bigger test in a different class,” said Natalie Pace. “Sickness should always be an excused absence that does not count towards your allowed skips.”

While there is no proof that the new policy is what caused the flu epidemic earlier in the semester, students are worried about using skips even when they don’t feel well because they want to save them for a more serious situation. This could be a possible cause of the widespread illness because students were not able to get the rest they needed.

“The only thing the new attendance policy does is hurt the people who needed the old policy,” said Ryan Pelletier. “The new policy prevents professors from being reasonable and working with the students.”

I understand that there is a need for an attendance policy. I am now a sophomore and attending upper level classes, but during my freshman year the policy helped teach me responsibility of managing my schedule. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

I believe whoever was involved with making this decision had good objectives and reasoning for the change. Sometimes things may look great on paper, but once implemented, end up being detrimental.

In this case, the registrar’s office should listen to the opinion of the student body, which seems to be that the old system was efficient enough and should have never been changed.

You’re Fired!

By Sydney Jones

On the reality show The Apprentice, President Trump was famous for the phrase “you’re fired” as a way to tell contestants they were cut from the show.

This happened to Sally Yates, but with a difference. She was a not a contestant on a reality show, but the acting attorney general of the United States.

Yates was the acting attorney general for 10 days before being replaced due to her defiance against President Trump’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees from entering the country.

On Jan. 30, The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, released a statement explaining the reason for her termination.

“The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States… It is time to get serious about protecting our country. Calling for tougher vetting for individuals traveling from seven dangerous places is not extreme,” Spicer said.

I believe this statement over-simplifies a problem that starts with the amount of power our modern executive branch possesses.

The legal order that Yates would not support was President Trump’s executive order which places an immigration ban for 90 days on people from majority Muslim countries. In a letter to Justice Department lawyers, Yates expressed her concern over the order.

“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities, nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful,” Yates said.

I am not fully opposed to an immigration freeze so that the vetting process can be reformed. But the countries this ban is targeting are a significantly lesser threat than others that are not affected, due to the fact that most of these people are refugees fleeing war. One of the countries that the executive order conveniently excluded, Saudi Arabia, is the country where 15 out of the 19 people responsible for the 9/11 attacks were originally from.

I could go on and on about the reasons why this particular executive order is unconstitutional, but the main point is that Yates did nothing wrong by choosing not to support the order and should not have been fired as the result.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice website, the main responsibilities of an attorney general are to represent the U.S. in broad legal matters and also gives their legal opinion to the president and top government executives.

As attorney general, Yates was not required to agree or support Trump’s executive order. However, this seems to be the attitude that Trump is taking towards this situation. Some argue that Yates was overstepping her boundaries by advising Justice Department lawyers not to pursue legal actions supporting the executive order on immigrants and refugees.

I respect our president and I believe he has great potential to make positive changes in this country. But I worry that this action is a sign of a future trend of abusing power. I do not think that Yates’ actions were grounds to fire her. She was trying to do what she believed was best, and she was punished for it.

When a president who is famous for shouting “you’re fired” starts doing that to federal employees simply because they don’t agree with him, that borders on a dictatorship, and we as the American people cannot allow this to happen.

Why Is No One Cancelling Class Because Of Aleppo?

By Sydney Jones

After Donald Trump was announced as the president-elect following the 2016 election, there was an almost instantaneous outpouring of grief due to fact that a seemingly misogynistic, arrogant and fascist man would soon be leading our country.

Professors cancelled class and violent protests broke out in many cities around the country. A few celebrities even vowed to leave the country (what a tragedy, how will we ever survive without our pop culture gods to worship?).

People are scared. I understand and empathize with that. What I do not empathize with, however, is the delusional state Americans are currently allowing themselves to willingly be imprisoned by.

The vast majority of Americans have the mentality that if something does not directly affect them, it doesn’t exist. And that is exactly what is happening in the case of Aleppo and the Syrian Civil War.

Assad’s government has violated rights of free expression and assembly. They have denied women their basic rights and refused Syrian Kurds and their descendants citizenship because they are “foreigners.” As I am writing these words, the Syrian government is massacring rebels living in Aleppo.

And not one class is being cancelled.

Few are mourning the plight of the Syrian people.

American society has turned a blind eye to the blatant evil that is occurring.

Every crime that critics have claimed that Trump has the potential of committing, Syria has committed 10 times over. Why is this not major news? Why does no one care?

Because it isn’t happening to us. Syria is thousands of miles away, and anyway they aren’t the first dictatorship to do this, and they won’t be the last.

As a society, myself included, we need to wake up from this dream. We need to expand our sphere of compassion to include a larger sector of humanity.

Please stop being passive about human life. If you need something to protest, protest the way the Syrian government is oppressing their people and destroying civilian life. If you need a reason to cancel class, cancel it and go to a peaceful protest and stand up for freedom. Instead of writing angry political Facebook posts, write to your government about why they are allowing hundreds of people to be murdered.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason we are so blind is because we have knowledge and information so readily available that it has caused us to become near-sighted.

How To Help

There are many places you can donate to. Help, not because you gain anything from it, but simply because you can.

 

 

 

The Fear Of Not Speaking In Public

By Sydney Jones

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 74 percent of Americans suffer from public speaking anxiety, and the only fear that is statistically greater is the fear of death.

However, college students who are on Liberty University’s forensics team willingly compete in public speaking events around the country on multiple weekends during the semester.

Denise Thomas, the head coach of the forensics team, enjoys watching the students on the team grow and become proficient speakers.

“Seeing the students grow and develop is my favorite part of being a coach,” Thomas said. “I love seeing a student who has just a seed of an idea, develop that idea and become more passionate and excited about the piece they are presenting.”

When students compete in forensics speech they are required to take a piece of literature or an issue and analyze it through dramatic interpretation and original speeches. Through preparing speeches, members of the team learn valuable lessons.

“Forensics forces you to be more self-aware,” said Lindsey Ball. “You can never go up in front of your judges with a passive attitude. You need support and confidence in what you believe. That is one thing that forensics has taught me.”

Ball is a sophomore at Liberty and has been competing in forensics for six years. She says that public speaking has helped her to become a more open-minded person, but it has also taught her how to defend her beliefs.

“Listening to other competitors and their views allows me to understand what I believe, be able to defend what I believe and realize what I don’t believe,” Ball said.

Forensics is a great extracurricular for any skill level, and can help break down the fear most people associate with public speaking.

“Students who lack confidence or skill through forensics can grow into a terrific speaker,” Thomas said.

Michael MacDowall, a sophomore at Liberty, is brand new to forensics. Although MacDowall has a background in debate and does not struggle with public speaking anxiety, he believes that forensics can help break the fear of public speaking.

“I think a lot of the fear of public speaking comes from a lack of doing, and people feel a lot of pressure when they’re speaking because they do not speak in front of people often. Frequency lessens that pressure,” MacDowall said.

Fear of public speaking is something that students on the forensics team actively fight against. Ball says before she started competing on the forensics team in high school, she had severe public speaking anxiety, but now enjoys competing.

“Conquering a fear is one of the most positive things you can do for yourself in order to grow your identity and character,” Ball said.

Because it is a team sport, forensics can foster strong bonds between students on the team and the coaches. The coaches are responsible for giving constructive criticism and helping the students become more well-rounded speakers.

“The coaches have created an environment that encourages everyone to keep getting better, and they foster growth within my own skill set,” MacDowall said.

Thomas also believes that as the forensics team coach, she is preparing the team for success in their professional careers.

“Employers are always looking for confident, competent speakers who can understand information and give a logical answer,” Thomas said. “Forensics allows you to do that and teaches you confidence in yourself and your opinions.”

Forensics is not just about public speaking. Ball believes the friendships that are formed between teammates and competitors from other teams are valuable in learning how to work together and communicate well in a group setting.

“My teammates are there to encourage me, build me up and critique me when I need it,” Ball said. “We are working together as this mechanical unit where everyone has different areas that we’re passionate about but we all work together as one.”

Public speaking is a legitimate fear that many people struggle with, but forensics allows students from all over the country to articulate ideas and learn skills that will carry over into their careers.

“Forensics is unique because you get to take a few moments of someone’s life and be able to touch them and influence them; once you focus on the message you want to tell other people, you won’t be as nervous,” Macdowell said.