Editor’s Note: Abbey Allen was a participant in the 2023 Youth Tour to Washington D.C. and was also selected as Indiana’s Youth Leadership Council delegate. As part of her obligations, Allen spoke at the Indiana Electric Cooperatives annual meeting in December 2023. Following is the text of her speech.
Hello everyone! My name is Abbey Allen and I am honored to be your Indiana Representative for the Youth Leadership Council. I am a senior at William Henry Harrison High School in West Lafayette. I have played volleyball throughout my entire high school career and have played travel volleyball for the past three years. At Harrison, I am an active member of the National Honor Society, Keyettes ( an all-girls service society), Riley Dance Marathon, and Raider Closet Club.
First and foremost, I’d like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to be able to visit our nation’s capital. I really did find my trip to be an experience of a lifetime. I appreciate the value you place on giving future generations the opportunity to experience our country’s capital.
I feel that a part of being a proud American is learning the reason why we remember, respect, and honor our shared battle scars.Some highlights from our trip included visiting Gettysburg, Mt. Vernon, the Marine Corps Museum, the National Archives, the Smithsonians, the Holocaust Museum, the Lincoln Memorial, and attending a Washington Nationals game. The two stops that were the most impactful to me were the Flight 93 Memorial and the Arlington National Cemetery.
The Flight 93 Memorial was the first stop on our trip. Upon our arrival, we quickly realized how much reverence the memorial commands upon all of its guests. Driving toward the memorial you are greeted with a 93-foot Tower of Voices windchime. The Tower of Voices has forty wind chimes representing the forty passengers and crew members that were on board. Past the Tower of Voices is the memorial. Down a short walking path is a white stone wall and a large stone. The large stone marks the location of where the plane crashed. The wall contains the names of the passengers and the crew members who were on the flight. Having the first stop be one that commands reverence was the ultimate tone-setter for the reason why we remember, respect, and honor those lives that were sacrificed on 9/11.
My personal favorite stop was The Arlington National Cemetery, specifically The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier holds a special place in my heart because I find it deeply inspirational that it conveys a sense of peace, victory, and valor. I believe the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier stands for important life lessons and leadership qualities such as integrity, selflessness, and perseverance. These same qualities are demonstrated by the guards of the Tomb who live by the Sentinel’s creed, “my standard will remain perfection”. To my surprise, one of my chaperones Mr. Ford was able to secure a front-row location for me to stand during the changing of the guards ceremony. This allowed me to be able to have the chance to make eye contact with the guard as he paced the 21 steps back and forth as a symbolic demonstration with meaningful ties back to the 21-gun salute. The leadership qualities that I witnessed at the Tomb are the same leadership qualities that I strive to achieve every day.
Speaking for myself and on behalf of my fellow youth delegates, we will always cherish the memories that were made during our week in Washington. Learning to remember, respect and honor is the biggest lesson that an American has to learn. If we do not continue to remember, respect, and honor, we will not have a purpose. A purpose to fight for equitable lives, to fight for freedom, and to fight for our future American generations. Thank you for fighting for our future American generations. Thank you for helping me realize that there is a major difference between learning history and experiencing living history. For those of you who have not been able to experience Washington D.C.’s living history, I hope this is enough to get you to want to go. I cannot help but feel humbled and honored to be a part of this great nation. I am proud to be an American.