Editor’s Note: Kylie Marozsan won first place in Americans United’s Student Contest for the college essay category. In this Q&A, she talks about the issues that have inspired her.
Q. What inspired you to take part in Americans United’s essay contest?
Marozsan: Trying to avoid the trap of predatory college loans to fund my college education, I search the Internet for scholarship opportunities like it is my part-time job. I am often greeted with the same redundant prompts: “How will you use your degree?” “Where do you see yourself in five/ten years?” “How will you use this prize?” When I stumbled upon this prompt, however, I was immediately inspired. Inspired to write something that I was passionate about, something I had thought about countless times before but never penned my thoughts to paper. I applied, I assume, among many talented and fierce students, to let my voice be heard.
Q. In your essay, you write about having fewer rights than your mother when it comes to reproductive freedom. That’s a sobering statement. How can your generation, grasping the gravity of this moment, lead us to a better place?
Marozsan: My generation is often accused of being weak, of being “snowflakes” and self-absorbed. However, we are anything but weak. We don’t tolerate the broken record of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. We are the most educated generation; we know our rights and are not afraid to make our positions known to the world on social media platforms.
My generation has the power to make change — that is why some politicians fear us. Recently, a presidential political candidate stated that he wanted to raise the voting age to 25. Why? Because we are vocal, because we vote, because we spend our money where our beliefs lie. My generation needs to be sure that those voted into power truly have the best intentions for the people they represent.
I turned 18 the same year that Roe v. Wade was overturned, and it fueled a fire in me, and in my peers, to vote. I recall the moment the decision was announced. I was on my “rite-of-passage” senior week. Instead of lounging at the beach, I was on Facetime with my mom, crying. It was a gut-punch. Being told that I could be forced to have a child, whatever the circumstance, seemed like a passage from a dystopian novel rather than the reality of people in the modern world. Even more alarming, where does it stop? If almost 50 years’ of rights can disappear in a matter of moments, what could happen next?
But I refuse to be a victim of a political agenda. Instead, I will vote. I will encourage my friends and family to vote. I will place my hard-earned dollars behind companies that support the same issues that I support.
Q. Along those same lines, what can groups like Americans United do to better engage members of your generation?
Marozsan: Groups such as Americans United can help better engage the members of my generation by spreading awareness of how many people these issues hurt. Word needs to be spread on every social media platform, every television channel and every store to help this cause.
Q. When many people think of separation of church and state, issues like prayer in school and the display of religious symbols on public land come to mind. But church-state separation also affects things like abortion rights, LGBTQ+ rights, censorship and others. When it comes to church-state separation, what issues mean the most to you?
Marozsan: Censorship terrifies me. Controlling what, when and why people learn and how they think is truly terrifying — especially in children. Much like women being denied freedom over their bodies, censorship is a form of control, a form of power. Learning about what is happening in education across the United States reads like a passage from Orwell’s 1984. But, the last time I checked, my life was not a dystopian fiction; it is a flawed reality.
From reading books about different cultures, different sexualities, different living conditions, I learned that the world is not secular. Books taught me that family is the way that one defines family. Books taught me that history is vital to learn so that the ignorance of our elders is not repeated. Books taught me that love is love. Finally, books humbled me by showing me that my or parents’ way of life is not the only way to live. If what children are allowed to learn is limited, is controlled by religious or political agendas, all other rights — such as LQBTQ+, abortion rights, speech, thought and expression that fall into that category — will be controlled, too. America is supposed to be the land of the free, the home of the brave. Censorship is not freedom. Censorship is the opposite of brave.
Q. Your essay makes several references to John Lennon’s iconic song “Imagine.” The song expresses an optimistic vision. Are you hopeful for the future?
Marozsan: The only thing more powerful than fear is hope. And although I am fearful of what America is becoming every time I turn on the news, I have so much hope that the world will change for the better. After all, being pessimistic is essentially giving up. Like Lennon, I refuse to give up, I refuse to quit.