The Democracy sculpture at Lima Senior is a visual output of the Project Democracy program.
The program gained national attention when Sharon Golden, a student at Lima Senior, was moved by student protests in China in the summer of 1989 and wanted to create a discussion around the subject of freedom in her school community.
The Chinese protests began with student demands for free speech, the right to peacefully assemble and the right to not to be censored by their government. The Chinese students courageously filled the square in Beijing to try and change the culture so they could realize their dream of self government. The episode ended unfortunately when several hundred student demonstrators were killed after the government advanced on the square in military armor. The government went further by imprisoning more than 1,600 demonstrators for protest-related activities.
What started as a classroom discussion around current events culminated with seminars for elementary, junior high and high school students. Speakers for these seminars included Manuel Guerra, who was tortured and imprisoned in Chile at the hands of the government; Patricle Sikhipa, who resisted apartheid in South Afrika; and Don Gouin, who served as a POW in the Vietnam War for 61 months.
Project Democracy attracted both state and national attention as then Ohio Secretary of State Sherrod Brown visited Lima Senior to issue proclamations for involved students. U.S. Senator Howard Metzenbaum recognized students as part of the Democracy sculpture dedication. Faculty members Virgil Mann, Mike Huffman, Dave McNeal and Sally Windle were all instrumental in furthering the project along with Sharon’s classmate Noelle Cook.
The Democracy Sculpture was designed by the Lepos, but it’s construction was the product of students from Lima Senior. The welding students did much of construction of the sculpture. Students from Auto Body applied the paint. Students from carpentry made the forms for the cement footers. Students from machine trades made connectors holding together the perimeter to the fence around the sculpture.
The meaning behind the Democracy sculpture is as relevant today as it was at it’s dedication. The current health crisis has challenged the limits of our freedom to assemble. Press outlets are vilified by both political parties in order to advance their respective agendas. Our rights to privacy have been balanced with national security interests. The principles for which the Democracy sculpture stands are still important and it reminds of just how important our freedoms really are.
With respect to the petition to remove the Democracy sculpture, I’m certain Mr Hardin has very good causes that he believes are important. However, advancement of those ideas doesn’t require removal of the existing sculpture.
We reject the notion that furthering ones own agenda requires casting aside an established community tradition. Each year the LSH Class of 1990 and 1991 bestow the LSH Democracy Scholarship in commemoration of Project Democracy and the sculpture to assist a college-bound student realize their dream of attending college. The sculpture, Project Democracy and the Democracy scholarship have deep meaning to many.
As the class of 1990 and 1991 make plans for their 30th reunions in the coming months, we will be celebrating this special piece of art and look forward to raising awareness about its value to the community.
Jason Rader is the 1990 class president of Lima Senior High School.