2009 Gerald R. Ford Essay Challenge

An annual essay competition for West Michigan High School students. This year, the theme was "The Meaning of Courage Today".

The finalists were presented awards during a ceremony at the Ford Presidential Museum on Presidents Day, 2010. Marissa Freyling was the keynote speaker.


The honorable mentions are:

Will Barkeley, Catholic Central High School, 10th grade
James Eugene Los, Holland Christian High School, 12th grade
Kelly Witkowski, Kenowa Hills High School, 12th grade

Martha Veldkamp
First Place Winner

To read Martha's complete essay, click here.

" In August 2009, Paul Breen, of Coopersville, Michigan, died at the age of ninety-one. It was not until his funeral that my family found out how courageous Uncle Paul had been. His courage was based on his integrity and convictions. Courage is more than bravery, which is often an impulsive act. Courage is holding to a course of action based on one’s moral convictions, even in the face of difficulty..."

Sara DenBraber
Second Place Winner

To read Sara's complete essay, click here.

"I never knew the true meaning of courage until the day I walked into that long, dreary room.  Gray recliners lined both walls, and everywhere you turned there was an IV pole.  Nurses were walking around taking temperatures, monitoring blood pressure levels, and talking to kids who sat in the chairs.  There were kids of all different ages sitting in those chairs.  I saw babies, toddlers, and teenagers like myself.  Some of the kids were sleeping, while others were playing on computers or watching the TV’s that hung from the ceiling.  There were kids doing crafts, playing games, reading books, or just talking to each other and their parents.  Most of them had little to no hair.  All of them had tubes coming from some part of their body, because they were all hooked up to an IV pole.  Bags of liquid hung on the poles.  Several of the bags were clear, a few were a yellowish-tan color, and a couple others were a deep, crimson red.  This was the infusion room at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Hematology and Oncology Clinic..."

Rachel McDaniel
Third Place Winner
To read Rachel's complete essay, click here.

"The courage of our founding fathers and their fellow patriots to bravely declare themselves free from British colonial rule in 1776 began a long tradition of courage as an American quality. Without the courage of our forefathers, America would not be the powerful country that it is today. It would not be able to function as a representative democracy and we would not be able to enjoy the numerous freedoms we do as citizens. There would be no way to keep the government relevant as changes occur over time, and there would be no hope for a more equal and peaceful tomorrow. In this time of economic, domestic, and international struggle, without the courage many contemporary Americans possess the future for our nation would be bleak..."