Platteview Writers Voice Their Patriotism


Winners of the Voice of Democracy audio-essay with PHS administration and ELA teachers.

Coleman Parnell, Staff Writer

Platteview High School students once again participated in the national Veterans of Foreign Wars audio-essay competition, “The Voice of Democracy,” winning the top three award from VFW Post 9558.

In Springfield, Nebraska, VFW Post 9558 reviews essays submitted by local high schools. The 2020-2021 essay prompt was “Is this the Country the Founders Envisioned?” 

The Veterans of Foreign Wars first began this scholarship essay contest in 1947. Annually, over 60,000 9-12 high schoolers submit essays nationwide to every chapter of the VFW. The VFW generously bestows millions of dollars in scholarship money to competition winners. More than the money incentive, however, this essay completion is about celebrating American virtues.

After listening to audio recordings of hundreds of students’ essays, Platteview English teachers select 10 to move onward. From these submissions and others, Post 9558 selected three Platteview essay writers. In third place was Jackson Plueger (11) with his essay “These Truths.” In second was Ella Ferguson (11) and her essay titled “I Pledge Allegiance.” Finally, the winner of Post 9558 with his essay “An Enduring Vision” was Dylan Conover (12). 

Among the hundreds of participants, these essayists stood out with their eloquent writing and grasp of American values. Congratulations to these dedicated writers. Plueger’s, Ferguson’s, and Conover’s essays are included below.

Third place winner, Jackson Plueger, with his family.

3rd Place: Jackson Plueger – “These Truths”

Every morning I wake up to the sun beating down on my face from the window next to my bed. The scenery outside my window is always changing, some days the grass is green, some days the corn is ripe, and some days the sky is darkened by clouds. However, there is something outside my window that never changes. Every day, snow or shine, there is a flag resting atop a pole in the grass. Most days it doesn’t cross my mind, as I rush to get ready for school or work it becomes a fading piece of the background. When I do stop to look at its untarnished colors proudly waving, the beauty of that flag can be staggering. It is the only thing outside my window that stays unchanged. As the land around it dies and grows, recedes and encroaches again the flag is stagnate. To me that flag represents not only a nation and her people but the ideas that she fights for. The ideas that are so essential to her being that they, like that flag, are unmovable and unwavering even when the world around her changes. At the core of this nation are promises of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Promises our founders fought to uphold for future generations and promises we still fight to uphold today.

When I look out my window and I see that red, white, and blue flag standing triumphant and fearless above the landscape, I am reminded of my safety. Our founders understood that in order for freedom to exist one right was to be established first. The right to life is the unchanging bedrock upon which our freedoms can stand. There is a reason it is mentioned first in our nation’s declaration of independence. In 1776, the signers of that document knew that for free people to thrive their right to existence was of the utmost importance. Today, we, the descendants of those men and women who fought against impossible odds to preserve our freedom, are still fighting that fight today. At home and abroad, there are those who view it necessary to trample the most precious right of nature. We stopped men like these in 1945, and we stop men like these today. We as Americans are guaranteed our rights to life, however, our founders made it clear that all men are created equal. Our job is only beginning, we still fight today for the betterment of not only our lives but the lives of all men, women, and children on this earth who are not yet safe from the dangers of wicked men. From the farthest reaches of the arctic to the deepest pits of the desert, America upholds its philosophy and its promise to ensure the lives and safety of all, as the nation’s founding fathers envisioned.

When I look out my window and I see that star spangled banner waving over our homes, I am reminded of the freedoms my founders recognized, and the freedoms we continue to fight for. Those freedoms that were given to us at birth by God and our circumstances in this world are freedoms that the founders defended. The American way is wholly unique in its approach to human nature. America understands that liberty cannot be given, by a crown, or a ruler, but that it can only be taken away. The America of today reflects these values that we still hold dearly. However, America has not always kept its promise of liberty. For decades the rights of many Americans were suspended or stripped from them. While this is true of our past, the true America always finds a way because freedom always finds a way. Alexander Hamilton once said, “There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism”, he understood that human nature was both capable of virtue and malice, but only through liberty could true virtue be attained. We as Americans are more free than any other point in our nation’s history and when I look at the world of today, I am grateful to live in a nation where I am allowed to live a life free of intervention from those who might seek to subjugate me and my fellow Americans. Our founders created a nation and a philosophy that is perpetually advancing towards its goal of freedom and liberty. America is the ultimate work in progress, as our job is never done, just as our nation’s founding fathers envisioned.

When I look out my window and I see that shining beacon of opportunity staked in the land of my forefathers who fought and died to keep it there, I am reminded of my right to pursue a life of happiness. The foundation of life and liberty that my nation guarantees me is what allows me to live a free life where I can pursue fulfillment. The founders sewed into the heart of this nation a sense of self-reliance and self-determination. The America of 1776 was the new world by which men from all across the globe could flock to seek a better start at the life they deserved. This is still true today, I and many others would argue even more so. In America I can choose to be who I want to be, how I want to aid my community, and how I want to live my life. The American way is one of both stark individuality and strong community. Through our own will we decide our passions, our work, and our bonds with one another. In America happiness is not guaranteed but the path to it is always lit. In America our only destiny is that we are to set our destiny. In the land of the free the future is never set in stone. In the home of the brave we are the captains of our ship and the masters of our future, just as my nation’s founding fathers had envisioned.

In a world that is constantly changing our founders bequeathed to us a nation founded on universal principles that apply to all people, in all places, at all times. The world of 1776 is vastly different from the world of today, but like that flag in the yard outside my window, the America of today has upheld the initial values that make us American. We fight to preserve not only our right to live in this nation, but the right to live in all nations, we uphold the promise of human rights bestowed upon us at our conception, and we defend the ability of all people to define their own destiny. Our founders saw the possibility a free nation and free people could hold. Our Predecessors held that delicate flame of freedom and they passed it onto their children and they to theirs. My generation is now inheriting a raging fire of liberty and a massive responsibility. We have a responsibility as Americans to keep that torch burning because we know that there are more than enough people who would want to put it out.

Second place winner, Ella Ferguson, with her family.

2nd Place: Ella Ferguson: “A Country With Ideals As They Were Envisioned: I Pledge Allegiance”

In the year 1892, a minister by the name of Francis Bellamy wrote the first version of the Pledge of Allegiance that would be recited by students across the United States, reading: “I Pledge Allegiance to my flag and the Republic for which it stands – one Nation indivisible – with liberty and justice for all.” In 1923 and 1924, the National Flag conference changed “my flag” to “the flag of the United States of America.” In 1954 President Eisenhower and Congress approved the addition of “under God” to the pledge, creating the final version that students recite today, including myself. However, while I may recite my country’s pledge on a regular basis, I never thought about the meaning of the words within this nation’s pledge until we discussed it as my family sat down to our Sunday dinner and my parents asked me what the pledge means to my generation. For me, the pledge is a symbol of everything our nation has become. While the founding fathers may have preceded the writing of the pledge, their ideals are reflected in it. America today is as the founding fathers envisioned because their purest ideal, “that all men are created equal,” has extended to people of all services, genders, races, and lifestyles by giving them the freedom, the rights, and the respect that every American citizen deserves.

A phrase I’ve heard constantly in my U.S. history class this year is that history isn’t made up by the big figures such as our founding fathers, but by the everyday people who ensure change can happen. For all people to be created equal, each person must receive the respect that they deserve. I live in a country filled with veterans who have served America and offered their services “to the republic for which it stands.” I have seldom met someone who has never known a veteran within their family, and each year I look forward to my school’s Veteran’s Day program, and our display of cars with American flags perched on top of them, lined up outside my school for everyone driving by to see. In a 1775 letter to Benedict Arnold, George Washington stated that “Every post is honorable in which a man can serve his country.” George Washington knew during the Revolutionary War, the war to gain our independence, the honor behind serving one’s country. No matter the controversies within America, we have become a powerful country, and those who serve have made that possible. As time has passed, more types of people within America have been allowed to serve in our military as well. Without an army and without support, George Washington, one of the most famous founding fathers, would never have made America what it is today. Now, with the continued support of our veterans and all who serve our country, we can honor them by doing our best to serve America as well, just as the founding fathers saw as honorable and deserving of respect.

America has become more truly “one nation under God” as time has passed and different lifestyles have become more widely accepted. Within the United States, people of different religions can live among one another and live life as they see fit. Whether a person believes in God or not they can live in America, forming one nation. Furthermore, anyone can live a life in America loving whoever they want. In June of 2015, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all fifty states. Within America, rights continue to progress, so any person of any lifestyle of different aspects, such as religion or sexual orientation, can live in the same place under the same laws. The founding fathers could never have expected life as it is today, but they worked to create a system that could grow with America and change to fit the country’s needs. Benjamin Franklin knew that to succeed, a country must adapt, saying “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” The founding fathers’ vision for America, a vision of equality and respect for all, was clearly not a vision that could be perfect immediately. Their vision has grown with America and has been improved, allowing the lifestyles of all people to have a home in the nation they created.

An exception to “all men created equal” at the time of the founding fathers was all slaves and African-Americans, many of the founding fathers being slave owners themselves. This left our nation unable to truly be indivisible. However, some of the founding fathers were opposed to slavery. Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of Treasury, stood opposed to the act of slavery. He was recorded in several instances and writings sharing his views on slavery, making comments such as “No man has the right to rule over fellow creatures.” While men and women such as Hamilton spoke out against slavery, it wasn’t abolished until the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, slavery officially ending in the United States in 1865. From there, segregation still thrived in the United States until the 1960s. Even today, incidents stemming from race still cause issues, leading to the rise of movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement of this year. From the time of the founding fathers, we have worked to gain equality for people of all races in the United states, and continue to work towards that equality in order to truly realize their vision of freedom and an indivisible country by ending immoral acts such as slavery, voting restrictions, segregation, and discrimination.

Of the many events that have occurred in 2020, one positive is the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. On the long road to equality, women gaining the right to vote was a huge step towards that goal and towards a society with true “liberty and justice for all.” When the founding fathers first wrote the Declaration of Independence, it read “all men created equal,” excluding women. However, there were many conversations on the topic of women’s rights, such as the letters between John Adams and his wife, Abigail Adams. Through their marriage, Abigail and John Adams wrote letters to one another, most of which have survived to this day. Abigail Adams supported the American Revolution and the education and rights of women. She and her husband also stood opposed to slavery. Of the countless quotes from her, an example of how strong her beliefs stood appear in this statement: “I cannot say that I think you very generous to the ladies, for whilst you are proclaiming peace and goodwill to men, emancipating all nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over wives.” Abigail Adams would not live to see the countless rights and equalities women have today, but she was a highly influential figure speaking out in the time of the founding fathers on women’s rights, often referred to as a founding mother. Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated: “I don’t say women’s rights – I say the constitutional principle of the equal citizenship stature of men and women.” She states beautifully what the founding fathers believed at their cores, that all people in America deserve basic rights and freedoms.

The founding fathers founded the United States on the ideals of freedom, respect and liberty. They searched for a nation that had freedom and equality for all. America has remained true to the ideals of equality the founding fathers envisioned, the respects and freedoms that come with it now extending to people of all types of services, lifestyles, races, and genders. America is a proud nation that has grown beyond what the founding fathers ever could have imagined, extending the ideas from the ideals they all believed at their cores. I live in a nation that leaves me proud to say, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.”

First place winner, Dylan Conover, with his father.

1st Place: Dylan Conover – “An Enduring Vision”

There were many reasons why those who fought the Revolutionary War picked up their smoothbore musket or Pennsylvania rifle, why young boys steeled their resolve in the face of death, why women made bullets and clothes for the husbands and children at Valley Forge, but the unifying purpose was to achieve liberty. Americans then pledged their lives, property, and honor to pursue liberty, and Americans now continue to do so. Though our nation is not the one our Founders envisioned, it continues to love, defend, and symbolize liberty.

The Revolution was built on the concept of liberty. Its conception was based in the belief of natural laws advocated for by John Locke and others- ultimately, liberty superseded the bonds of tyranny and monarchy. Recalling their religious heritage, the colonists realized that the God they knew would not allow for them to be persecuted by a tyrannical king; rather, His precepts dictated liberty. Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, deemed it vital for the colonists to “assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them.” The vision of liberty required sacrifice, willingly paid for by the Founders of the United States. When the Constitutional Convention convened, liberty was the guiding light.

In modern times, America has continued to be the standard for liberty as the leader of the free world. Such a position has not come without consequences. The United States is the second-largest and one of the oldest democracies in the world. It has prevailed throughout wars, economic turmoil, and political change for over 200 years. The only way these feats could occur was because of the love that Americans have for liberty. In this globalized world, the US must counter threats: from foreign nations, non-state actors, and misguided citizens, to strengthening cybersecurity, fighting viruses, and combating misinformation, the US has stood fast against the tide of destruction. This could not be accomplished without liberty loving people. Even now, the civil divisiveness and political polarity illuminate the great lengths Americans are willing to go to preserve the ideals and opinions they are entitled to. The disquiet in our world today means Americans are once more resuming the great American political debate- though rarely clean, often embittered, and acutely spirited, as long as the people are not destroying liberty, their arguments are preserving it. The keystone to liberty is free speech, and the vast array of expressed ideas show just how liberty-loving Americans are.

Liberty is not free. Unfortunately, it often comes at the price of blood and great sacrifice. In the days of the Revolution, our forefathers fought and died to create this great nation. Our nation is a nation founded on immigrants- but those immigrants could not waltz into Ellis Island and our nation. Frequently, they had to sacrifice life savings, risk a perilous journey, pass a competitive entrance process, and seek out their dreams. Our military, police, and others who have risked their lives in the line of duty have paid for our American liberty. American heroes- specifically its veterans- have preserved our liberties through multitudes of conflicts. They freed us from Britain. They defended our shores in 1812. They defeated the Barbary Pirates, opened the West, and stood victorious over imperialism and Nazism through the World Wars. Hundreds of thousands have fallen, giving the ultimate sacrifice to safeguard our liberty.

These hardships prevail. America has defended itself from the unforgiving grasp of socialism and successfully ended the Cold War. We have fostered the growth of democracy in the global community, and have used our position in the United States to protect the basic human rights and liberties of all. We have fought in the Middle East and endured hundreds of casualties to ensure another 9/11 will never happen. When other countries shirk or fail to take their share of the defense of liberty, the United States is there to bridge the gap. Through our policies, we have stabilized regions in Asia and the Middle East, and our economic forces have weakened our global opponents. This has not been heedless warmongering- this has been the defense of liberty.

From its inception, the US has been the image of liberty, and the Statue of Liberty and the American flag are among its most recognizable symbols. There have been many self-proclaimed utopias and abundant attempts to craft perfect government, but the standard of the United States has eclipsed them all. The American Experiment and the American Dream manifest the centric nature of liberty in America. No other country so fully links itself to freedom. The Founders did not know this is what America would become. Such a predominant power and positive influence as the US has been was unimaginable to them. At the time, they formed the United States of America simply because it was their duty to do so. They had in mind their posterity, but they could not fathom what we have become. We owe our nation to them, and although the US has not turned out how they envisioned, it has rather surpassed their wildest dreams.

Our nation is vastly different from the one conceptualized by the Founders, but it has still loved, defended, and symbolized liberty- and it must continue to do so. As the world becomes evermore chaotic and turbulent, the stabilizing and generous hand of Uncle Sam will help guide the world through. Americans have and will always continue to take up the standard of liberty. Whether on modern battlefields, in political offices, or on their street, Americans are ready to safeguard the cause of liberty.