Devin Oliver, of Bluffton, S.C., was selected to be the national rep. for the Youth Leadership Council sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. This is his winning speech.
Devin Oliver, who represented Palmetto Electric Cooperative on this year’s Washington Youth Tour, has been selected as the national spokesperson for the Youth Leadership Council, a program sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).
Oliver’s route to this honor began in June when he traveled to Washington, D.C., with 47 other South Carolina high school students for the annual Youth Tour. South Carolina’s students selected him as their representative to the Youth Leadership Council Conference, held July 21–25 in Washington. It was at the conference that Oliver delivered his winning speech, which he will deliver again during the NRECA annual membership meeting February 13–20 in New Orleans.
“I’m pumped,” Oliver says. “I’ve taken my leadership skills in my school and community to a new level. I want to thank Palmetto Electric Cooperative for allowing me to go on this trip of a lifetime.”
Below is the winning speech:
E Pluribus Unum
My name is Devin Oliver, and I’m representing the great state of South Carolina. I want to share with you what visiting our nation’s capital has meant to me. I want to share with you how touring places like the U.S. Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, the Tomb of the Unknowns and the Washington Monument have left their mark on me. I want you to look in your pocket, or your wallet or purse and, if you find a one-dollar bill, I want you to take it out and hold on to it. Now pass it up to the stage; this is my speaking fee. Just kidding, I’ll tell you why you need it in a minute.
While we visited each of those landmarks I just mentioned, I noticed something small and seemingly insignificant. I saw it first at the National Archives. I saw it again at the World War II Memorial and later at the Capitol building. Three words: E Pluribus Unum. I didn’t know what it meant, but I became curious because I kept seeing it. When I looked up the meaning of this Latin phrase, I discovered that it meant “out of many, one.” It got me thinking about our trip to Washington, D.C. The very first time that I met the three other students selected to go from my co-op, Palmetto Electric Cooperative, there were some polite smiles, but mostly awkward silence. Now I’m sure y’all had the same experience when you first met the students from your co-ops. In the six days we spent together, sharing experiences, we became so close that it seems like we always knew each other. Out of many individuals, we became one close-knit group.
A total of 48 students from the great state of South Carolina traveled to Washington in June. When we all met for the first time at the airport, it was awkward. We were all strangers. We were all individuals from our own little world. Through the course of the week, the boat tour on the Potomac River especially, and the tours of D.C., we became a family; one giant dysfunctional family. Now, I’m sure y’all had the same experience.
Two hundred thirty-five years ago, our founding fathers knew of the importance of this power of diversity and the strength that it creates. Our founders knew that people from different backgrounds, races, religions, political backgrounds, education and upbringing would form together to create a better, stronger country to live in.
E Pluribus Unum can be found all over Washington, D.C., and even in your pocket. In the journals of the Continental Congress, dating back to 1782, you’ll find this phrase. On the Statue of Freedom, atop the U.S. Capitol, you’ll find this phrase. On the seal of the United States of America, you’ll find this phrase. In the rotunda of the Capitol, in the painting of “The Apotheosis of Washington” way up on the ceiling, you’ll find this phrase. And on every coin ever produced by the United States Mint dating back to 1786, you’ll find this phrase.
Even the formation of electric cooperatives is based upon the idea of E Pluribus Unum. Electric cooperatives were created to serve rural consumers when private, for-profit companies wouldn’t. Co-ops were formed to serve the needs of the many.
By the time our plane landed back in South Carolina, many of us were in tears. A group of strangers only six days before were now transformed into a family. E Pluribus Unum means out of many, one. Prior to June 16, we were many. Now we are one brought together by our electric cooperatives. Each of our state’s electric cooperatives chose each of us to represent them. Where we once didn’t know each other, in just a few days we became one: one group representing each state, comprising one great nation.
So, remember that dollar bill I asked you to take out? Flip it over on the back. Look to the right side and you will see an eagle. Inside that eagle’s mouth is a scroll. Written on that scroll is “E Pluribus Unum.” From this day forward, I ask that every time you have a dollar bill in your hand, I want you to think of the greatness of our respective states, and the greatness of our nation that is built upon those words and ideals of our founding fathers. Our greatness, our strength comes from our diversity.
I would like to thank my local co-op, Palmetto Electric Cooperative, especially Mrs. Kristen Keller and our CEO, Mr. Tom Upshaw, for allowing me to go on this trip of a lifetime. Next, I would like to thank The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, including Mr. Van O’Cain, for bringing all of us from the great state of South Carolina together for a fun and truly inspiring trip. I would also like to thank the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association for organizing and bringing students together from across our country.
Lastly, I want to thank our founding fathers for their wisdom. Out of many, we are one. Thank you so very much, and may God bless our America.