What makes America great?

Robert Galbreath photo Pinedale High School seniors Dana Ramberg, left, and Cady Eaton, right, won the top two places in the annual ‘Voice of Democracy’ essay contest sponsored by the VFW. Ramberg and Eaton now have the opportunity to advance to state competition and a chance at the national competition in Washington, D.C.

Two seniors win top spots in essay contest

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

“really enjoyed.”

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

like Ebola.

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



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