2007 Bernice L. Fox Writing Contest Winner
Greetings to you, Senators and elected men of the House. You, my friends, are the Congress, the very legislative body of this nation and the most influential government body in America. I am Odysseus, a hero to my people, the Greeks, and ruler of the island of Ithaca. Over three thousand years ago I was leader of the Greek army during the Trojan War, and yes, as Homer has explained in the Iliad, I was the ďcunningĒ one of the bunch. As explained in the story told about me today, it was on my ten-year quest by sea to return home after defeating Troy that I truly defined who I am and have become, over three thousand years later in the year 2007. It is true, as Homer also wrote in the Odyssey, that I provided the brains and courage for the group of men traveling home with me. I indeed proposed the Trojan horse by which we were able to deceive and conquer Troy, and this victory brought me great confidence but not nearly the skills I needed to survive the real battle, the treacherous return home. I tell you all my achievements not to brag, but to bring you the divine wisdom of a people and a time period that shaped the world today. As a favor coming from a man who encountered obstacles and was victorious in strenuous trials to save himself and allow Greece to extend its dominance, I offer you several points of advice.
First, you must avoid hubris and greed, the haughty pride and arrogance born of superior power and knowledge. I distinctly remember how I myself committed hubris while I was escaping the Cyclops. After executing a genius plot to escape the great Polyphemus, I arrogantly revealed my identity to him as I was sailing away. Not only did he almost sink our boat with a boulder, but also upon hearing my name, he invoked the wrath of Poseidon to try to prevent my return home. Luckily, I was able to receive help from Zeus and finally be taken home without Poseidonís stopping me. Therefore I say to you, prevent getting yourself into unnecessary wars far away merely because you think you have the strongest army and that your might will have everyone bow down to you, for if you do, you will suffer great consequences just as I did.
Next, I command you, a deliberative body, to make courageous choices while always trying to avoid the loss of human life. Only when there was no other choice, I sacrificed six crewmen by sailing near the six-headed monster Scylla so that the rest of my crew would survive. United State Congress, do not let your fear of your enemies make you give up your resolve to provide freedoms, security, health and happiness for your people. Also, sacrifice human life only when you are sure the outcome will give a great many people a brighter future in the end.
Thirdly, it is imperative that you be resourceful when faced with a difficult challenge. Again, as I give you this advice, my escape from the Cyclops comes to mind. Without my having been resourceful while trapped in the cave, I would never have made it out alive. Seeing the mental slowness of the Cyclops, I was able to make use of strong wine in order to persuade him to plan to eat me last, giving me the time to devise a plan for escape. My men and I made use of an olive tree and used it as a spear to blind the Cyclops. Finally, to seal our escape, I was resourceful enough to know to tell my men to cling to the bottom of the sheep in order to escape when the Cyclops let the sheep out. Congress, confront problems within the country knowing that there is always some way you can solve them with the intelligence and perseverance you already have. You as a nation are capable of solving any problem that comes your way if you use resources properly.
Next, as you are doing now, listen to the wisdom of men both alive and dead. At a difficult point in my journey, I had to visit the Underworld to receive advice from those in my life whom I loved and trusted the most: my mother Antikleia, who gave birth to me and was always protective of me; Tiresias, the great blind prophet who was the most famous soothsayer in all of ancient Greece; Achilles, strongest and most courageous of the men in Agamemnonís army; as well as king Agamemnon himself. Their words of wisdom helped me to journey home successful and to overcome the many challenges I faced. Listen to your experienced elders and texts of the past, just as I talked to advisors in the Underworld. They can teach you a great deal about the present and the future, for they will warn you of past failures and prevent problems your ancestors had from happening again.
Lastly, I advise you to remain curious. Rather than avoid hearing the singing sirens, I had my crew lash me to my vesselís mast so I could learn of their enchanting voices. As the United State of America, keep your eyes open and stay curious; hear those around you in order to be constant learners. Never lose your need for invention and support those around you who are constantly looking to explore new ideas, for that is how the United State of America came to be and how it will become an even greater nation.
I have told you of my journeys and given you my advice, members of the House and the Senate, and the divine knowledge which I leave with you is up to you, from this point forward, to put into action. Be sure to know that my words have meant nothing if you are not able to grasp my greater message to your entire country. More important in my quest than beating several minor foes along the way was that I persevered, made sacrifices, and in the end, reached my goal of returning home. It is the steadfastness, loyalty and goal-oriented focus that brought me home. People of Congress, stay forever strong in your quest to do what is right for the United States of America, as I once showed in my long trip home, for perseverance is the ticket to success.