As a fairly liberal person growing up in the predominantly conservative town of Southbury, Connecticut, I’m used to being in the company of those whose beliefs are not in accordance with my own. Because of my upbringing, I am accustomed to acknowledging such differences without allowing them to alter my ability to function as if they didn’t exist.

This day was different.

As I walked into school that morning, an ominous quiet surrounded me. I thought this odd, for the amount of people trafficking the hall was typical of any other day.  Provoked by a sense of curiosity and bewilderment, I approached one of my classmates and asked her why nobody was speaking. She simply pointed to a ribbon that was tied around her wrist and walked away without uttering a word.

I soon learned that my silent classmates were taking part in a school-wide protest against the legality of abortions. All students and faculty who wished to participate tied red ribbons around their wrists and took an oath of silence, sacrificing their own voices in honor of those who never had the chance to use theirs.

My voice that day angered those around me. Some passersby in the hallway scowled at me when they heard me talk, but other than that I made it through most of the day without any major conflicts. It was not until later in the day that I was forced to verbally defend my own choice not to remain silent.

As I approached my Spanish class, I was surprised to see my teacher waiting by the door, handing a ribbon to each student. When she offered me one, I politely declined.  I then sat at my desk and anxiously waited for the day’s lesson to begin. My teacher closed the door and turned to face the class. Instead of approaching the whiteboard, as she typically did, she walked slowly towards my desk and bent down so that her face was a mere two or three inches from mine. She then stretched out her arm and opened her hand, revealing a red ribbon.

“Take it, Marlee,” she said as she plucked the ribbon out of her own palm and dangled it in front of my face. “I’ll even help you to tie it onto your wrist.”

When she grabbed my arm and attempted to forcefully fasten the piece of red silky cloth around my wrist, I quickly recoiled. This angered her. She told me that I was wrong, that I was uncooperative and that I did not care whether or not innocent babies were killed. 

Internally appalled but externally calm, I rose from my desk and walked to the center of the room. I explained to my class that school was not a place for political protest and that I was disappointed in Mrs. Griffin for allowing her own opinions to infringe upon her ability to teach. I explained that, though she was entitled to her beliefs, she was in no position to impose them on her students. Based on Mrs. Griffin’s silence, I felt that I had gotten my point across.

Silence is a powerful force, for it holds the potential to make one either discernibly commanding or utterly meek. Though using my voice generated a great deal of controversy, I would not hesitate to repeat my actions. Certainly, it would have been easier for me to fulfill Mrs. Griffin’s wish and wear the ribbon. After that day, she treated me differently than she did my peers. She spoke to me with a condescending tone and constantly criticized every aspect of my being. I discovered that it is better to speak your mind and face the consequences than to silently conform and become exactly what society pressures you to be. I exhibited my own strength and willingness to act in discordance to those around me in order to defend my own beliefs.

This experience was essential in molding me into the person I am today.  After reflecting, I am able to identify myself as someone who is driven, outspoken, compassionate and bold.  I am not afraid of controversy; I am not afraid to take a stand.  Though this experience was horrific, I don’t regret having it.  It was the water that was necessary to nourish the seeds of my personality and help me sprout into my true self. 

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