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Ashe County High Student Wins National Essay Contest, $5000 PDF Print
Written by Rachel Gillespie   
Thursday, 24 March 2011 10:26

An Ashe County High School student beat out more than 24,000 other participants for a top spot in America’s largest high school essay contest conducted by the Bill of Rights Institute. Representing the South Atlantic Region, Zachary Thompson, a junior at Ashe County High School, earned First Place and $5,000 in the fifth annual Being an American Essay Contest.  The national competition is sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute, an educational nonprofit based near Washington, D.C.

Thompson‘s sponsoring teacher, Marc Gamble, received a matching cash prize.  

In addition to the cash prizes, Thompson and Gamble also won paid trips to the nation’s capital, where they were honored on March 22 at an awards gala emceed by Juan Williams and featuring a keynote address by John Stossel. The Washington, D.C. trip also included a Capitol Hill luncheon and tours of the U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court, and National Archives. 

“The Being an American Essay Contest encourages students to see how vital it is to the future of our country and Constitution that they live out key civic values every day,” said Bill of Rights Institute Vice President of Education Programs Jason Ross. “By thinking about the civic values evident in our Founding documents and in the lives of American heroes, students can begin to see how their own actions are significant in supporting the experiment in self-government started by our Founders.”  

More than 80,000 students attending public and private high schools, and home-schooled students from all 50 states, have participated in the Being an American Essay Contest to date, with nearly half-a-million dollars in prize money being awarded to winning students and their teachers.

“The Being an American Essay Contest is a wonderful way to awaken students' interest in the ideas of the American Founding.  The Stuart Family Foundation is honored to be one of the Contest's supporters,” said Stuart Family Foundation Executive Director Truman Anderson.

The 2010-2011 contest’s sponsors include the Stuart Family Foundation, Lake Forest, Ill; the Jack Miller Family Foundation, Buffalo Grove, Ill.; the History Channel, New York, N.Y.; The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Milwaukee; Koch Industries, Wichita, Kan.; DonorsTrust, Alexandria, V.A.; and the Heritage Foundation, Washington, D.C. (A complete list of contest sponsors is available here).

To participate, students were asked to share their thoughts on American citizenship by answering the following question: “What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American?” By encouraging students to consider and weigh American values, the Essay Contest serves as a key part of the Bill of Rights Institute’s mission to educate young people about the words and ideas of America's Founders, the liberties guaranteed in our Founding documents, and how our Founding principles continue to affect and shape a free society.

In his winning essay, Thompson selected “individualism” as the civic value topic of his essay and thought Murray N. Rothbard, American economist, philosopher, and historian, most embodied the American character. In his essay, Thompson wrote, “History has proven that complacent "subjects" are bound to serfdom and slavery. Americans escaped this cycle by unleashing this virtue of individualism that has been suppressed for centuries by Machiavellian leaders fearing the consequences of individualism to their ill-sought power. Since 1776 American culture has been the forerunning example of the power and virtue of individualism.”

More information on the Being an American Essay Contest can be found at Copies of winning essays and photographs of students are available by request.


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