On Tuesday, February 7, 2017, Conner Gates was asked to deliver the motivational message to begin the Spanish Fork City Council meeting. Mayor Steve Leifson asked Darryl Root, Senior Vice Commander of the local post of Veterans of Foreign Wars to introduce Conner:
Mr. Root said, “The VFW has a special scholarship program that we do every year for junior high school students to write an essay based on a theme that we present to them. We have a young man from our own Spanish Fork Junior High that applied for that, wrote an essay, won at our post level, won at our district level, and just recently won at the state level. He will be competing against all the other departments, all of the other states, at the national level. We’re really proud of him. I’d like to introduce Conner Gates.”
After the contest was announced last fall, Conner went home from school Friday afternoon and spent the weekend composing two complete essays. He revised, contemplated, sought feedback, and revised again before settling on what would become the winning essay.
Essays were judged on comprehension and development of the theme and clarity of ideas. Students were encouraged to present a positive viewpoint.
Last year, over 120,000 students across the nation participated in the Patriot’s Pen Contest. The first place winner will win $5,000 plus an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the winner and a parent or guardian.
Conner has an unusual interest for a seventh-grade student—politics. Conner’s avid passion for politics has made him an unusually insightful citizen at a very young age. His passion and love for America comes through clearly in his winning essay:
"The America I Believe In"
by Conner Gates
“America. The land of the free and the home of the brave. It is the place where people with different ideals and backgrounds should be able to live free from persecution and hardships. One where people should be free to express their opinions, and not be afraid to convey those beliefs. One where people should not be judged by the color of their skin, ethnic backgrounds, religion, or opinions, but by their actions and the reasoning behind said actions.
“The America I believe in is a place where political representatives fulfill their obligations and responsibilities out of love for their country, not the need for power. One where country is put first, where the flag still stands for freedom, the lives of veterans, respect for our forefathers. One where the founding fathers can be proud of what we’ve done as a country, and how the country’s future is affected. One where veterans can and should be treated with the respect they so rightfully deserve. One where we never forget what they have done for us, and that we return the favor.
“The America I believe in is a place where people aren’t afraid to lend a hand, or too haughty to help one in need. One where people work hard for what they have. One where we stand as a beacon to the world, one of power, unity, and freedom. One where grit, hard work, and determination can help someone up the corporate ladder, or out of a rough spot in their lives. One where a person can accomplish their dreams, no matter what the physical and mental cost.
“The America I believe in is a place where everyone has the same rights, and want to do their part. One where the laws set are followed by everyone, and everyone respects the people enforcing them. One where people aren’t shot on the streets, where parents don’t have to work two, three jobs to support their families. One where people are willing to help out their country, where they have patriotism, and aren’t afraid to show it. One where people can handle not coming in first, and won’t be scared to fall down and fail. And finally, the America I believe in is a place in which one can say, with pride, ‘I love America.’”