LEWISTON, Idaho -- Danny Blake didn't know what he was going to write until he was already writing.
Sometime in November, the 13-year-old was assigned to pen an essay on what patriotism meant to him for his seventh-grade geography class at Jenifer Junior High School in Lewiston. His teacher had mentioned it would be entered into the Fleet Reserve Association's essay contest, but to Blake, it was just an assignment that he wanted to get a good grade on.
He started by looking up the definition of the word in the dictionary. Three paragraphs and a few months later, he had earned $3,100 in U.S. savings bonds.
"Once I got on the computer, ideas just started popping into my head," Blake said.
Blake won a $100 bond for placing first in the Northwest Region and then a $3,000 bond for placing second in the nation overall.
His first idea was that it doesn't take military service to be a patriot. Loyalty can be expressed through community service, or, as he also argued, simply by taking oaths to heart.
He used the Pledge of Allegiance as an example. "You can say it every day and not necessarily mean it, but when you do mean it, it's saying a lot more to your country that you actually do appreciate your country."
The Fleet Reserve Association's judges must have liked Blake's line of thinking, as did the crowd at a recent award ceremony held at the high school where Blake read his essay.
Blake's mother, Marilyn Blake, was in attendance to see her son receive a standing ovation when he was finished.
Surprised and proud, Marilyn said she told her son standing ovations aren't something that happen all too often in a person's life, and to remember the moment.
Applause and accolades aside, Blake remains modest about his prowess as a writer.
"I'm OK with writing. I don't know if I'm good at it or not, but it's OK with me," Blake said. "Ideas just pop into my head sometimes and I write them out."
The savings bonds won't be redeemable for 10 years, Blake said, and his mother said she hopes he will save them for his education, which could turn out to be pretty expensive.
For now, Blake intends to become a pediatrician.
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(c) 2011, Lewiston Tribune, Idaho
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