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Letters About Literature National Winners 2011

National Honor Winner, Level 1: Conrad Oberhaus, IL

Dear Daniel Defoe,

Your book, Robinson Crusoe, taught me that desperation and necessity can bring about positive change. Robinson never would have considered befriending Friday, a savage and cannibal, but Robinson was isolated from humanity and desperately needed companionship. He realized that Friday was raised to be a cannibal and savage and knew no other way of life. Friday was a prisoner and faced certain death by is captors. By accepting their differences and working together, they not only survived life-threatening encounters, bur prospered.

While you wrote this book nearly 300 years ago, your message has never been more important. I am of mixed race, my mom is Indian, and my dad is of European descent. Sometimes people give us a look that makes me feel uncomfortable when my family is together, because we are not all the same color. I know there are those who are prejudice against mixed races and consider my parents’ marriage wrong. My mom is a doctor. If someone who does not like Indians is desperate and needs her to save his or her life, do you think it matters to that person what race my mom is?

We all rely on each other in a multitude of ways. I do not know the ethnicity of the people who grow my food, make my clothes, or provide my drinking water; all I know is that I need them to survive, and I am thankful they exist. I do not need to know their race or ethnicity; I just need to know that I can depend on them. The world’s population is growing and our resources are diminishing. In the future, we must treat each other as Robinson and Friday did to ensure the survival and prosperity of mankind. We will have to accept each other’s differences, and learn to judge people not by their ethnicity or cultural past, but instead by their actions and how they contribute to the common good of society.

I hope that one day the people who once gave my family a look will need me and perhaps I can show them that my race does not matter, and what matters is how I can help them. Everyone in the world will feel more comfortable knowing that they are treated equally with respect no matter which ethnicity they are.

I anticipate that one day desperation or necessity will not be needed for us to get along; until then I hope that people will keep reading your book!

Conrad Oberhaus