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February 22, 2024

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JoElla Carey, second place winner of The Missouri Voice of Democracy competition JoElla Carey, second place winner of The Missouri Voice of Democracy competition

POINT LOOKOUT, MO. —  School of the Ozarks junior JoElla Carey received second place for the Missouri Voice of Democracy competition sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. This competition is held each year for students in grades 9-12.  Students who enter are asked to record a 3-minute speech on a patriotic topic. This year's prompt for the Voice of Democracy contest was "The Attributes of Democracy."

Carey was awarded first place for her speech, "The Attributes of Our American Democracy," in the Voice of Democracy contest for Missouri's District 14. She presented her speech in Springfield, Missouri, in January. She was then sponsored by Post 1667 for the contest.

“The Veterans of Foreign Wars hosts the Voice of Democracy, but also, a Patriots Pen essay competition for younger students,” said Dr. Brad Dolloff, dean of the School of the Ozarks. “Students must demonstrate not only the ability to write, but oratory skills as well. Students at School of the Ozarks are trained in the art of rhetoric, and JoElla is a fine example of a student who is developing that art with excellence. She is a bright, hardworking student who has proven herself to be an excellent communicator. We are thrilled that others have noticed her gifts, especially when it comes to articulating her faith and her patriotism.”

On Saturday, Feb. 10, Veterans of Foreign Wars members and officers from across the state gathered to honor Missouri students who won first place in each VFW district. Carey and her family, including her older brother, Lance Corporal James Carey of the United States Marine Corps, attended the VFW banquet honoring the 13 top winners of the Voice of Democracy.

The evening began with The National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, and an "America's White Table" ceremony to honor the POW and MIA in remembrance of those who could not attend due to their patriotic sacrifices. Students were then introduced and escorted to their tables. After an elegant meal, Missouri Voice of Democracy winners were announced, and Carey was awarded second place in the state of Missouri out of almost 700 entries. She was awarded a certificate and $1,600.

Before the banquet on Saturday, Carey enjoyed meeting other Voice of Democracy competitors as they were presented with VFW jackets and toured the Missouri Capitol Building, the Missouri Military Museum, and the Missouri Highway Patrol Museum. Her favorite part of the trip, though, was visiting Veterans and spending time with her family. VFW District 14 Commander Phil Rippee and Post 1667 Commander Rick Clowers encouraged her to compete again in next year's competition.

While the day of touring museums and visiting with other high school students blessed Joella, she was most affected by the reminder that her blessings in America are not free. They are defended and paid for with sacrifice. She was reminded by our veterans that the closing of her essay on attributes of American democracy was not just words, but truth: "The desire to have a democratic society would simply be a pipe dream without the ultimate sacrifice that so many brave soldiers have paid. The American people owe our individualism, free and fair elections, multi-party system, and separation of political power to the grace of God, the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, and the patriotic hearts of our veterans."