Thomas Pearson wins VFW’s Voice of Democracy award for Illinois


Thomas Pearson will travel to Washington D.C on March 3 for the finals of the Voice of Democracy contest.

Earlier this month, it was announced that LHS junior Thomas Pearson won the VFW’s Voice of Democracy award for the state of Illinois.

According to their website, the goal of the Voice of Democracy award is to “provide high school students with a unique opportunity to express themselves in regards to a democratic and patriotic-themed recorded essay.”

This year’s subject for the Voice of Democracy contest was “American History: Our Hope for the Future.”

“I made [my essay] based on sacrifice, and the sacrifice through American history,” Pearson said. “[It was about] veterans and service members, but also the ordinary sacrifices.” Pearson explained that he believes it is important that everyone makes sacrifices for others around them as well as their country.

Pearson was inspired by both his older brother, who had recently competed in the competition, as well as his grandfather. Pearson said his grandfather, who served in the Navy during World War II, had a profound impact on his life. Pearson’s grandfather taught him the importance of sacrifice.

“[My grandfather] was shot down over the Pacific, and was on a life raft for about eight hours before being picked up,” explained Pearson over email. It was his valiant efforts that earned Pearson’s grandfather a Purple Heart for his service.

At the end of Pearson’s grandfather’s life, their family gathered together and recorded his war stories.

“He was such a big influence on me, like that generation and how they lived,” Pearson said.

Pearson included anecdotes about his grandfather within his award-winning essay. His grandfather’s actions provided an example for the sacrifices that people can make and how they can influence each life individually. His grandfather showed Pearson how hard people fight in order to secure basic freedoms for Americans. Additionally, through learning and telling his grandfather’s story, Pearson said he now understands how much of an impact one person can have.

On March 3, Pearson will go to Washington D.C with the other 52 finalists remaining in the Voice of Democracy contest. He said he hopes to learn more about the history of past veterans to appreciate and emulate their sacrifices.

On top of participating in the audio-essay contest, Pearson is also the goalie for the soccer team. Losing this year’s state finals has only inspired Pearson to fight harder towards a state championship next season: “The finals were a devastating experience, but it’s lit a fire underneath all of us.”

On top of a state championship, Pearson said he also desires to have an unbeaten season. After going 19-1-1 in 2017, the team believes they have the assets to have a perfect season.

Pearson believes that through consistent sacrifice from both himself and the rest of the team, they will be able to win the state championship.

“I would [be willing to] get no awards if it meant a win in the state championship. I think everyone on the team feels the same way.” Pearson aims to apply the lessons he learned through his work on the Voice of Democracy essay towards his soccer career.

On Feb. 21, Pearson committed to play soccer at the U.S. Naval Academy. He said this decision was largely due to the importance of both service and athletics to him. He hopes to follow his grandfather’s legacy of sacrifice for the country.