What makes America
great? Thousands of high school students
from across the country attempted to answer
that question for the annual “Voice
of Democracy” essay contest sponsored by
the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Sixteen students entered the contest at
the local level, said Windy Noble, member
of the VFW Auxiliary and youth coordinator
for the VFW Post 4801.
Contestants write an essay in response to
the prompt and make a three- to five-minute
audio recording of their essay. A panel
of judges rates the audio essays for content,
originality and delivery.
At the PHS Veteran’s Day ceremony on
Nov. 11, Noble announced the local winners.
Sophomore Emmaline Vrska placed
third. Senior Dana Ramberg came in second
place and senior Cady Eaton won first.
Eaton and Ramberg will advance to
the district-level contest, encompassing
the state of Wyoming. If they do well at
State, Eaton and Ramberg can advance to
the national competition in Washington,
D.C., scheduled in late February and early
March. Contestants at the state and national
levels also compete for scholarship money,
including the grand prize – a $30,000
So, what does make America great?
Eaton and Ramberg found their inspiration
in some unique places.
Rising up from defeat
On Dec. 7, 1941, hundreds of Japanese
planes descended on the U.S. Naval Base at
Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack. Japanese
forces inflicted considerable damage, sunk
the U.S.S. Arizona and killed more than
2,000 Americans. As the smoke cleared, it
appeared that Japan won the day.
The Japanese commander of the attack,
Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, looked at the
big picture and did not see victory.
“I fear all we have done is to awaken a
sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible
resolve,” Yamamoto said of the United
Yamamoto’s quote was the basis for Eaton’s
“The attack on Pearl Harbor awakened
America,” she said. “Pearl Harbor brought
the country together in a fight to protect our
The Japanese admiral’s prediction came
true. The United States emerged from the
war as a world power and voice for democracy.
“America is so unique,” Eaton said. “It’s
like no other nation on Earth. We all have
a say in politics. Our Constitution and the
founding of our country was so revolutionary
and spread to other places. There is so
much power in being a citizen – we all have
rights and responsibilities to uphold.”
America’s rise from the ashes of Pearl
Harbor to liberate people from fascism
in Asia and Europe reminded Eaton of
the “American dream.” For Eaton, the
American dream is “taking personal responsibility”
to reach for the opportunities
this country has to offer – an “equal
chance to be what you want to be, receive
an education and then contribute
to the public good.”
Eaton is working hard to reach for her
own opportunities. The senior is a member
of the National Honor Society and attended
the American Legion’s Girls’ State
program this summer. Eaton is a competitive
dancer at Wild Dance Company in
Pinedale, where she does everything from
classical pirouettes to jazz tap.
Eaton is also active with her church
choir and youth group. On top of these activities,
she works part time and carries a
heavy load of advanced classes. Her favorite
courses are economics and Advanced
Placement English literature. The class recently
finished “Sister Carrie” by American
author Theodore Dreiser, a book Eaton
Eaton is considering a career in psychology
or family counseling and may attend
Brigham Young University.
The next generation
David Hosack grew up in New York
City during the American Revolution. He
crossed paths with the founding fathers
and went on to become a well-respected
physician. His interest in combining medicine
with botany led him to found the first
public botanical garden in New York City
(where Rockefeller Center is today).
Hosack also founded or co-founded the
New York Historical Society and Bellevue
Hospital along with New York City’s first
public school, school for the deaf and a
pharmacy for the poor.
Hosack served as the physician for Alexander
Hamilton’s family and was on call
during the famous duel between Hamilton
and Aaron Burr.
Hamilton and Burr are now household
names, but Hosack is not. His achievements,
however, inspired Ramberg’s essay.
“Hosack was an example of the drive
to improve your community and society
as much as you can,” Ramberg said. “He
saw it as his civic duty to create all those
Ramberg bumped into Hosack by accident.
While exploring Google for information
on early American science, she found
a biography about Hosack called “American
Eden” by historian Victoria Johnson.
“I thought the synopsis of the book was
really cool,” she said. “I really wanted
to talk about the American dream in my
essay, and I based it around Hosack. He
talked about how our forefathers founded
an entire country and he asked, ‘What can
I do as a teenager’ to follow them.”
As a member of the next generation of
Americans in the new republic, Hosack
embodied the American Dream for Ramberg.
He went to school and became a
doctor, studied botany and anatomy and
helped advance medicine beyond traditions
like bloodletting or serving patients
Ramberg is passionate about science,
and found inspiration in Hosack’s story.
Her favorite class this year is AP Biology,
and she is interested in a career in microbiology.
Ramberg dreams of working for
the Centers for Disease Control or the
U.S. Army’s Medical Research Institute
of Infectious Diseases, agencies on the
frontlines in the battle against diseases
In addition to a heavy school load, Ramberg
is a member of the NHS and the National
Society of Leadership and Success.
She “loves making music” and plays the
clarinet in the Pinedale High School band
and marching band and tenor sax with the
jazz band. She also works part time during
the school year.
Ramberg plans to attend the University
of Wyoming next year, majoring in a
science field and playing in the marching
What makes America great? Young
people, like Eaton and Ramberg, with the
courage and work ethic to pursue their own