2008 Gerald R. Ford Essay Challenge

An annual essay competition for West Michigan High School students. This year, the theme was "Patriotism Today".


The 18 finalists were presented awards during a ceremony at the Ford Presidential Museum on Presidents Day, 2009. Secretary of State Terry Lynn Land was the keynote speaker.

Steven Harwood
First Place Winner
Steven Harwood
To read Steven's complete essay, click here.

"In the midst of the current election season, discussions of patriotism, particularly of the patriotism of the various candidates, have repeatedly arisen.  We as Americans place a high value on patriotism, and even if we agreed with a candidate on every issue, many of us would be unwilling to vote for someone whom we saw as unpatriotic.  But throughout most of these discussions, one fundamental question remains unanswered.  What exactly is patriotism to an average American in 2008?  The answer is that patriotism is many things..."

Srah Legualt
Second Place Winner
Sarah Legault

To read Sarah's complete essay, click here.

The word “patriotism” plays a limited role in our lives today. In the bustle between work and school and home, we forget to take pride in our country. Unlike Americans in the nation’s early years, when the concept of freedom still rang with freshness and the idea of the United States captivated all Americans, today, we take our nation for granted. We forget our ancestors’ struggle to win this land. We ignore the wonder of this country’s achievements: the union of multiple states, the first nation on the moon, the leader of the twenty-first century. We overlook all of these claims..."

Joanna Chen
Third Place Winner
Joanna Chen
To read Joanna's complete essay, click here.

" On February 18, 2008, Michelle Obama was repudiated by critics when she stated on the campaign trail that, “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country, because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.”
            Some Americans found this expression outlandish, offensive, and incongruous from the accepted and expected ideology of uniform loyalty and unwavering pride in one’s country. They speculated over why a 44-year-old woman had never before felt proud of her country. They accused her of being unpatriotic..."