The Wilton Republican Town Committee is proud to award Emma Babashak the first annual WRTC Lincoln Scholarship for her essay on the topic of What it Means to Be a Wiltonian. Ms. Babashak, a graduating Wilton High School Senior who is attending Columbia University in the fall, was awarded the $1000 scholarship. Her essay was chosen as the best of more than 25 submissions from WHS seniors. We received dozens of excellent essays from talented Wilton High School students about what it means to live in our town but Emma’s essay stood above the rest. She is a superb writer and an outstanding example of Wilton’s excellent public school system. The Lincoln Scholarship is an initiative of the Wilton Republican Town Committee created to engage Wilton’s graduating seniors in town affairs, raise civic pride, and recognize academic merit. Emma Babashak’s winning essay is reproduced in full below.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A WILTONIAN
Emma G. Babashak
(Winner of 2020 Wilton RTC Lincoln Scholarship)
Hiking the Town Forest’s icy paths, I was not surprised to pass another Wiltonian in a snowstorm. With a knowing wave, we shared the moment’s inspiration among the accompanying hardwood sentinels. Innumerable sturdy trunks stood unmoved against winter’s fury as if our entire town surrounded us on the trail. After viewing similar snow-covered resilience during a Civil War horse ride, the observant President Abraham Lincoln had noted, “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”1 Reputation thus varies, but character roots itself. Amidst the character traits of the Town Forest’s trees – red maple, black birch, northern red oak – I found what it means to be a Wiltonian.
Neighborly red maples live along downtown sidewalks, up hillsides, and throughout level lots near ponds, streams, and wetlands. Young or old, this native quietly goes about its business most of the year, until – look! – it flashes its unique full-blooded vibrance among stone walls. Seemingly overnight, ostentation then subsides as work begins anew for early spring’s hard-won syrup reward. Similarly, the local Wiltonian values quiet purpose and prudence while also enjoying labor’s just reward for a job well done. Like red maples, Wiltonians display brilliance in their own time and form a close community without the vanity of pretentious sugar maples.
The modest and unassuming limbs of black birch belie their nurturing and healing embrace. Black birch thickets protect numerous young plant shoots of the forest from foraging deer. The tree’s plain bark deters deer by synthesizing methyl salicylate, the “oil of wintergreen” cousin of aspirin. This tree plainly benefits forest welfare. Black birch mirrors the work force within Wilton’s Route 7 imagery – schools, fire and police departments, and EMS services – that conscientiously serve the public every day. Dedicated Wiltonians with unsung bravery ensures health and safety just as a Town Forest’s uncelebrated Good Samaritan safeguards saplings.
Long-lived northern red oaks govern the Town Forest’s heights with massively lofty spires. The “champion oak” rains down countless bitter acorns for birds, deer, and squirrels desperate for winter sustenance. Northern red oaks also bestowed Wilton’s early settlers with strong timber for floors, fencing, and furniture – with leftovers chopped for firewood. With its resourceful traits, the northern red oak nobly pitches in instead of idling. Like this majestic tree, admirable Wiltonians utilize their strengths in skills, time, and wealth to give life and structure to myriad worthy programs and projects. Rather than lead from a lofty crown, able Wiltonians head fundraisers, volunteer, or coach teams from the roots up to nurture perpetually robust altruism.
The common trees of Wilton’s Town Forest – red maple, black birch, northern red oak – personify the character of this New England town’s residents. Thus, being a Wiltonian means carefully balancing diligent work with a flair for community friendships, serving others bravely, and directing inherent strengths toward local needs. Reflecting Lincoln’s measure of character, Wiltonians’ actions rouse best intentions and spirits in humanity’s current formidable crisis.
1Brooks, Noah. “Lincoln’s Imagination.” Scribner’s Monthly, August 1879 (Vol. 18, No. 4), pp. 584-587