Something to Think About: The Value of Symbolism
April 20, 2016
There are a lot of big issues facing the country today- equal rights, student debt, immigration, campaign reform, the environment, the list goes on. Unfortunately, very little headway is being made with regards to most of these problems. Rarely do we see good news being reported on TV about a bipartisan effort to enact meaningful legislation.
Today, I found some good news. Harriet Tubman will be replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.
At first, this was just something that made me smile (I, like pretty much everyone else, quite like Harriet Tubman, and Andrew Jackson has never been one of my favorites), but I didn’t think much of it. Who really cares who is on the $20 bill?
But I came to realize that small steps towards progress like this one should be celebrated.
Yes, having Harriet Tubman on the 20 won’t directly impact anyone’s life, but it’s what it represents that truly matters.
Having an African American woman, an abolitionist who saved lives and stood for freedom says more about what it means to be American than anything Andrew Jackson ever did.
Not to mention how refreshing it will be to have someone other than an old white guy on our bills.
We learn and understand American history as a series of accomplishments achieved by great men. The Founding Fathers created our nation, Lincoln preserved it, Roosevelt expanded it and FDR saved it. But we forget all of the collective efforts by women and minorities that fueled some of our country’s greatest advancements.
So when we put Harriet Tubman on the 20, not only are we acknowledging the full scope of our past, we are also able to more clearly imagine the progress of the future.
Yes, it’s a symbolic gesture. But symbols are meant to stand for something. And Harriet Tubman stands for my kind of America.
Isabel Giovannetti is a senior at Robinson High School. She loves politics and is part of the Mayor's Youth Leadership Council.