GLADE SPRING, Va. — “How do the combined actions of many good citizens keep our nation moving forward?”

That was the sealed question in a patriotic essay contest answered by 17-year-old Potter Cain McKinney, who had just an hour to write and a dictionary to help him.

He did so well that he won awards at the county and district levels with an opportunity to place at the state level in the coming weeks.

Based on his winning essay, the senior at Patrick Henry High School is the recipient of the 2016 Good Citizen Award and Scholarship Contest given each year by the Black’s Fort Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Second place went to Sarah Lilly, a senior at Abingdon High School, and the third place winner was Madison Garrett, a senior at Holston High School.

Potter was nominated to enter by his social studies teachers because of his knowledge and interest in history, as well as his writing abilities.

After receiving his school nomination, he received the essay question at school with no previous knowledge of its content. His answers revolved around three issues.

“It’s not so much what [our citizens] are doing, but it’s why they’re doing it. And that’s what I think moves our country forward,” he said. “There are three things that drive good citizens to move the country forward— the love of equality, freedom and service.”

The student developed his ideas by writing, “Equality is the foundational worldview of the patriot that drives all of their other actions. Jefferson states the equality of all people in the Declaration most succinctly when he writes that all people possess, ‘certain unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’’’

Potter addressed the issue of freedom by writing, “Freedom is the goal of a just society and the purpose of patriots, which good citizens must always move our country towards for the sake of equality.”

Lastly, he wrote, “If equality is the ‘why’ and freedom is the ‘what,’ then service is the ‘how.’’’

The DAR Good Citizen Award and Scholarship contest was created in 1934 to encourage and reward the qualities of good citizenship among students across the country. The award is given to one senior each year who exhibits dependability, service, leadership and patriotism in their homes, schools and communities.

After learning his essay placed at the county and district levels of the DAR, Potter attended a Black’s Fort DAR meeting in January, when he read his essay to the chapter’s members and accepted a monetary award of $300.

“It’s a huge honor, and the money will help with college expenses,” said Potter, who plans to attend the College of William & Mary in the fall.

He plays trumpet in the Patrick Henry Rebel Regiment Marching Band, and served a leadership role as brass captain this school year.

A member of the Scholastic Bowl Team, he scored second among team members from Patrick Henry, Northwood, Honaker and Holston high schools.

He currently is playing the role of the Cat in the school’s Dr. Seuss play, “Seussical the Musical,” which opens Feb. 23.

Sign up for Email Alerts

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Recommended for you

Welcome to the Conversation

No name-calling, personal insults or threats. No attacks based on race, gender, ethnicity, etc. No writing with your caps lock on – it's screaming. Keep on topic and under 1,500 characters. No profanity or vulgarity. Stay G- or PG-rated.
Load comments