Voice of Democracy, Patriot’s Pen winners named

Winners of the Coon Rapids VFW and Ladies Auxiliary Voice of Democracy (VOD) and Patriot’s Pen contests for students have been announced.

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Matthew Lerdahl, winner of the Coon Rapids VFW and Ladies Auxiliary Voice of Democracy contest.

Matthew Lerdahl, a Coon Rapids High School junior, was the winner of the Voice of Democracy contest for high school students for the second straight year.

The Patriot’s Pen essay competition for middle school students was won by Northdale Middle School seventh-grader Grace Sinclair.

Olivia Farley and Leah Mau, both eighth-graders at Coon Rapids Middle School, placed second and third, respectively.

The entries of Lerdahl and Sinclair advanced to the district VOD and Patriot’s Pen contests.

All four students won cash prizes from the VFW and Ladies Auxiliary for their success.

Voice of Democracy has been the VFW’s premier scholarship program since 1947.

High school students in grades nine through 12 compete by writing and recording a broadcast script between three and five minutes long on an annual patriotic theme.

This year’s theme was “Is The Constitution Still Relevant.”

At Coon Rapids High School, Lerdahl is a member of the speech team, football team and has lettered in academics, science fair, student council, football and basketball.

He will be competing in the regional science fair in St. Cloud Feb. 23 with a project that he designed and built, a bionic arm, which answers to voice recognition software to remove AED-IEDs in Afghanistan.

Lerdahl is a senior patrol leader in Boy Scout Troop 415 and is working on his Eagle project.

According to his mother, Debbie Lerdahl, he will be remodeling the baseball field, which is just a grass field with a backstop fence, at Faith Lutheran Church this spring for his Eagle project.

He has taught Sunday school and Vacation Bible School at Faith Lutheran Church for the past three years.

Besides the VOD contests the past two years, Lerdahl won the Anoka-Coon Rapids Optimist Club speech contest in eighth-grade and took second place in both sixth- and seventh-grades.

“Matthew’s father passed away when he was nine years old and he participated in his father’s eulogy by reading a little speech he wrote,” Debbie Lerdahl wrote in an email.

“Since then he has been very focused and driven.”

According to his mother, Lerdahl is planning to attend leadership training this summer at the U.S. Air Force Academy if he is accepted, and his future plans are to attend a prestigious college, for example, West Point, Air Force Academy or Notre Dame.

His grade-point average is currently 4.16, Debbie Lerdahl said.

The Patriot’s Pen essay contest gives sixth- , seventh- and eighth-grade students the opportunity to write essays expressing their views on democracy.

According to Sinclair, the essay contest rules set a 400-word maximum limit.

She focused her essay on the Founding Fathers, Sinclair said.

“I think it’s terrific what they accomplished,” she said.

She was really excited when she was told that she had won the contest, Sinclair said.

Entering the Patriot’s Pen contest was not a problem for Sinclair.

“I really like writing a lot,” Sinclair said. “I’ll write on anything.”

Both the VOD and Patriot’s Pen essay contest have been approved by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) for its national advisory list of contests and activities, according to Tami Meyers, Coon Rapids VFW Ladies Auxiliary.

The VFW and Ladies Auxiliary are also sponsoring a Young American Creative Patriotic Art Contest for students in grades nine through 12. Entries are due to the Coon Rapids VFW Post by March 31.

According to the contest rules, art must be on paper or canvas. Water color, pencil, pastel, charcoal, tempera, crayon, acrylic, pen-and-ink or oil may be used, but digital art is not accepted.

“We encourage all students that are enrolled in private and charter schools along with students being home schooled to participate in all these contests along with students enrolled in public schools,” Meyers said.

Grace Sinclair’s essay

John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington. What do these five men have in common? Who are they? What have they accomplished.

These men, and many others, have all done something that has greatly contributed to our country, America.

Grace Sinclair, winner of the Coon Rapids VFW and Ladies Auxiliary Patriot’s Pen essay contest.

Grace Sinclair, winner of the Coon Rapids VFW and Ladies Auxiliary Patriot’s Pen essay contest.

They have fought for independence in so many ways. They have risked it all to give the generations to come a better life, and most of all, freedom.

Each of these men has many titles: Inventor, veteran, author or even President.

But one of their titles will stand above the rest. They’re one of many Founding Fathers.

First of all, the Founding Fathers were, and still are, a legacy.

Most of them probably didn’t know if their attempts at gaining our independence would be successful.

It was, but if only they could see the results of their own work. Our country prospers today, and every day.

So much is different from back in the time of the revolution. If they had only known how much has changed.

The Founding Fathers would have so much to be proud about.

Our technology, education and economy have advanced so much; it may be unfathomable in their eyes.

It only took a scribble of a pen to gain our country’s freedom.

When John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence, they are signing our independence from Britain.

Without them, and the other Founding Fathers who have signed, we may still under the control of Britain.

I and everyone in America should be thankful for what they did, and what they represent.

They knew that the future of our country was at stake. They also knew that if they were caught doing such vicious acts, their punishment would be death.

Yet they believed that it would turn out for the better. Their optimism is what led our country out of the hands of Britain, and into the hands of the people.

What I would say to America’s Founding Fathers? What can I not say? Even if I could just talk to one of them, I wouldn’t be able to say it all.

Words can’t describe how much gratitude and thanks I have for each and every one of them.

The Founding Fathers are a lesson to us all. If you put aside your differences and join together, you can accomplish more than you could ever imagine.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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