Three Youths Win in DAR Essay Contest - TribPapers

Three Youths Win in DAR Essay Contest

DAR Joseph McDowell Chapter American History Essay Chairperson Laura Lee Jordan is in front of the following pairs of teachers and student DAR essay winners: Director of Classical Scholars Eliza Hardin with eighth-grader Aislean Esquivel, Hendersonville Middle seventh-grader Alivia Chen and HMS teacher Anne Boyette, and Bruce Drysdale Elementary fifth-grader Scotty Keplinger and his teacher April Summey. Photo by Sharon Coffey.

Hendersonville – Three Henderson County students have won essays in their respective age divisions, in the Daughters of the American Revolution’s local American History Essay Contest.

Aislean L. Esquivel, Alivia Chen, and Scotty Keplinger each won a bronze medal, certificate, a check for $25, and a map of western North Carolina signed by internationally-known cartographer Jim Mitchum.

Chen went on to win first place in the state DAR contest for her same essay, among seventh-grade students. She studies at Hendersonville Middle School. Esquivel was the runner-up among eighth-grade contestants. She is in the Classical Scholars program. Keplinger is in fifth grade at Bruce Drysdale Elementary.

The local Joseph McDowell Chapter presented American History Awards to these three winners in a meeting in mid-January, held in the Champion Hills clubhouse. The local DAR chapter has held the contest for students in grades 5-8 for more than 80 years.

Congressional Delegate

The focus of the contest varies from year to year. This time, it was entitled “Delegate to [the] Second Continental Congress.” The task was to choose one colony and one of its delegates, and to research about that person and issues emerging in this nation’s fight for independence from England. The contestant had to write the essay in a first-person narrative, as if she or he was that delegate.

“These issues were a challenging topic for young students,” but within their academic capabilities, DAR McDowell Chapter’s Sharon Coffey said.

Esquivel writes as if she is delegate Joseph Hewes. The New Jersey native moved to North Carolina. He was one of merely three representatives that the Second N.C. Provincial Congress sent to the Second Continental Congress. The colonies-wide Congress met in May 2-Aug. 10, 1775 and on Aug. 13, 1775, and nearly a year later ratified the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

Hewes held a swing vote. He felt conflicted between voting for independence and remaining loyal to King George III, Esquivel wrote. She stated that Hewes carefully examined facts of that time, then ultimately cast a critical vote for independence. John Adams, a strong leader for independence, wrote that Hewes suddenly rose up, lifted both hands up as if in a trace, and “cried out, ‘It is done, and I will abide by it!’”

Hewes was such an active campaigner for the new nation that his health failed. He had chronic headaches. He died at age 49 in 1779.

Chen chose the unusual perspective of a leader behind the scenes of the Congress. She portrays a quiet delegate writing a letter home to his wife. The letter reveals his feelings and his outright pleasure in signing the Declaration of Independence, and also in approving George Washington as head of the Continental Army.

Bye George!

Keplinger, age 11, writes as George Washington when he served as a delegate at the Second Continental Congress. “George is secretly glad to have bested a rival for the position, John Hancock,” Coffey observed about the essay. “Scotty shows the feisty side of our (first) commander in chief!”

“I’m so glad they saw I was more qualified for the job as commander of the Army,” Keplinger wrote in portraying Washington. “It was probably because of my contributions in the French and Indian War with my great record in battles, such as the Battle of Princeton. I stood my ground — even after two of my horses were shot while I was riding them.“

Washington’s birthday is on Feb. 22. He was 43 when he was chosen over Hancock as the Continental Army commander in chief on June 19, 1775. Keplinger further noted in his essay that Washington promptly left Congress to “assume command of the army” in Cambridge, Mass. Keplinger as Washington noted, “I heard that it took delegates so long to plan the Olive Branch Petition that by the time it got to Britain, King George III had already declared the colonists ‘rebels.’ I also heard a rumor that John Adams was infuriated over the petition, but signed it anyway.”

Keplinger is fascinated by the Father of Our Country. He told the Tribune that “I imagine him to be more of a man of few words. But you feel that he likes talking.”

Keplinger also wrote about the Declaration of Independence’s great length and its intense debate, which included balancing state’s rights with national unity. “While I (Washington) was commanding the army in New York, it ended up taking the remaining delegates 19 days to write and edit the Declaration of Independence. It took so long to make something everybody agreed on. At one point, John Dickinson of Pennsylvania and James Duane, Robert Livingston and John Jay of New York refused to sign it. I think that some people only signed because they wanted the Congress to be seen as a board of people that all agreed. But this group of people was far from that.”

The most amusing section pokes fun at John Hancock’s ego. “I also heard that John Hancock wrote his signature super big on the Declaration of Independence. I know that Mr. Hancock was the president of the Second Continental Congress at the time. But still, he did not need that big of a signature. The delegate from Georgia, Mr. Gwinnetts, only took up a tiny amount of paper. I am sure the heat was also terrible since it was in the middle of June, and they closed the windows so they would not be overheard.”

Scotty concludes as Washington that “this declaration signing is all so exciting. But since most of my men don’t take it seriously, I doubt the king will. But I can only be hopeful.“

Keplinger said that he kept writing the essay over two days. He said that history is his favorite subject. “Scotty’s a history buff” who reads much in his spare time to learn more beyond what he studies for school, his father Ty Keplinger said. Scotty Keplinger said he prefers to read a book to “feel the page,” instead of reading online on a computer device.

He said he is intrigued by President Teddy Roosevelt, who like himself “likes going outdoors. He started the first national parks. He was always outside.” His favorite period in U.S. history is the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s, which coincided with westward expansion and emergence of the railroad. He said that this era “had more action than at other times. We had evolution in science, and also economically.”