Prompt

Of all the manifestations of power, restraint in the use of that power impresses people most.

Essay Response

Displays of great strength are misguided attempts to gain ground or leverage over another party. In school, children are taught to revere the “strong, silent type.” And for good reason: those able to restrain the use of power should be held in the highest regard. “Heroes” more than willing to throw themselves into harm’s way before all facts are known should not be held up on a pedestal. Instead we should honor those who walk quietly, while holding a big stick.

Private citizens aren’t the only ones who benefit from this modest mindset. Governments should strive to restrain the use of their power, in both domestic and foreign affairs. Leaders must make sure that we exercise caution and humility before diving headlong into something for which we are not ready—not just in war or war planning, but in everyday decisions. Just because a nation can exercise its power to gain leverage over another nation or an individual, doesn’t mean it should. The world already knows the United States of America is the most powerful nation on earth. We should let it be known that the lives of our soldiers are far more important than the spectacle of displaying our might.

The Cuban Missile Crisis in the nineteen-sixties is one the most well known example of a Presidential restraint in the face of possible calamity. President Kennedy could have sent the message to the Soviets that America would not capitulate in any way. He didn’t, and instead chose a deal unpopular even among his own cabinet. The United States showed restraint by removing missiles from Turkey, and the Soviets followed our example and pulled back from Cuba. Almost undoubtedly, this restraint stopped World War III.

This is not to say that America is always a beacon of restraint. For example, the current financial crisis is born out of people believing that “might is right.” Gain all you can, as quickly as you can, and step on anyone in your path—for years this was the American motto. We need our major financial institutions to lead the way with honesty and integrity. Just because a company can destroy its competition doesn’t mean it should. We do not need corporations flaunting there power for everyone to see. We need safe, transparent markets. The wealthy and powerful should use only honest practices in the business world.

History has judged that restraint will always gain the most respect and admiration from one’s peers, and enemies. We are impressed by greatness, but, perhaps more importantly, we cherish and honor humility.

Essay Score: 5

This is a strong essay that is very good in almost every respect, but not excellent at anything in particular. For example, the introductory paragraph does a tremendous job of staking out a clear position, but does not necessarily set up the subsequent body paragraphs.

Organization-wise, this essay does well to follow the intro-body(paragraph)-body-body-conclusion model. The supplementary paragraphs are strong examples of the author’s main point—that we are all better served by showing restraint. The only small problem here is that each of the examples comes from the realm of history, and we are often better served by a more eclectic suite—composed of literary, personal, scientific, and/or cinematic examples—of supporting points.

The writing is also very good. The author is able to express himself/herself very succinctly without feeling the need to include ornamental words or ideas. There are, however, a few grammatical blips, including the use of the wrong “there” in the second-to-last paragraph.

Lastly, the conclusion does a nice job of summing up the thesis and the body paragraphs, but remains a sentence or two short. It is, admittedly, difficult to repeat the thesis and surmise the essay without sounding redundant, but we should strive to do so in at least three sentences.

Check out this example of a GMAT essay that scored a perfect 6, along with a detailed explanation of how the student was able to achieve the score.