By Allison Ashley
Occupy Wall Street protests have begun to spread to cities all around the world. In early October, Chicago business traders hung signs in the windows of their office buildings saying, “We are the 1%”. The traders were sending a message back to the protesters. They, the 1%, seemed to be very frustrated with all the incrimination and hatred towards them. Is this the same message the 1% sign hung at Sonoma Academy was sending to the Occupy Santa Rosa protesters?
On Tuesday, October 18th, a sign was put on the second floor of the library over-looking Sonoma Academy’s campus written in red letters that read, “We are the 1%.” As a school with many different political views, this sign struck up many conversations. These conversations ended either in arguments or agreements. This expressive banner could have been put up for a couple of reasons: one reason is the pride in being the 1%. Many parents are doctors, engineers, lawyers, business owners and many more occupations that would place them in the 1% income level of the United States. They have worked hard in school and in the work force. They have sacrificed along the way and are proud of their career and financial accomplishments.
The second reason the banner may have been up is to display shame in being part of the 1%, with the protestors thinking it is not right that collectively the top 1% have one third of the money in the United States. Instead they believe the wealth should be shared with the people who could benefit from it.
As a teenager in high school, I believe it is not right to label us as a number based on our parents’ status. Yes, they have provided us with many opportunities, including sending us to a private college prep high school. But when we are older and choose a career for ourselves, we can decide which percent we want to be a part of.
On Monday October 24th, another sign was put up next to the original 1% banner. This new sign said, “We, the 99%”. These two signs placed side-by-side symbolize the community of our school: some in the 1% and some in the 99%, representing the 40% on financial aid and the other 60% who are not. We are separated by differences in political views. However, we overcome these differences of opinions and work together as students, staff, teachers, parents, and community at large to provide us with a safe educational institution where we learn and grow together. Maybe Obama and Congress should follow our school’s example on how to run a successful democracy?
Whether you’re in the 1%, 99%, or undefined, there are some political views we all can agree on. Our government should start focusing on the more important issues we have in this country rather than classism. Budgets are being cut for schools and there are not enough jobs available for college students. The teenagers of the United States are the future of this country and if we are not provided with the opportunities we need to be financially stable when we get older, then the economic situation we are in will never get better. As a country, we should learn a lesson from former president John F. Kennedy who once said, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”