During February each year, the Montana State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution meet to select the best essays from children across the state for the Christopher Columbus Essay Contest.

In 2014, students between grades 5 and 12 were asked to answer the question “How Do Americans View Christopher Columbus and George Washington Today?”

On top of gaining some writing experience, students can win some great prizes. The national winner receives a $1,200 prize and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington to read the essay at the Columbus Day event in Washington, while second place contestants take home $500 and the third place winner receives $300.

This year, Pinehaven Christian School 9th Grader Nathanael Roger Larsson's essay crossed the first hurdle and made it to the state-wide competition. His essay (transcribed below) is a good example of the craftsmanship it takes to break out of the first round:

How Do Americans View Christopher Columbus and George Washington Today?

Christopher Columbus and George Washington were very different in the challenges they faced in life. For the most part, Columbus was more interested in trying to figure things out himself and controlling everything himself, while Washington wanted to listen to God, obey God, and let God control what was happening. While it is true that they were thrown in entirely different circumstances, I can’t help but wonder if Columbus would have done the same things Washington did had he been in Washington’s place.

There is one similarity, however, in how Columbus and Washington handled one situation. Columbus was sailing to the New World, and his men were upset because they hadn’t seen land in a long time. Columbus asked his men for a little more time and immediately went into his cabin and began praying for God to help their mission succeed. Washington was faced with the problem of organizing his troops. They were poorly clothed, inexperienced, and too few. Washington still believed he could get the job done though, with God’s help. He prayed to God, not just for help, but also as an example. He read out of the Bible to help the men and to set an example, and he rode among them, encouraging them and boosting their morale. They both relied on God for help in what looked like a really tough situation, and came through to succeed. In Columbus’ case, he found land just before the time he had asked for ran out. He ended up discovering the new world. George Washington ended up getting reinforced by the French, and winning the American Revolution.

Another situation that arose later in Columbus’ life is where he made a major wrong turn. The Indians had ambushed and killed a group of men he had left behind to start a settlement. Even though the group of men had been harming the Indians and punishing them because they couldn’t find more gold, Columbus was enraged. Columbus began imposing a tax on the Indians. If they didn’t show him where the gold was, they had to give him a certain amount of gold every three months. The problem was though, that the gold they had found originally was what had accumulated over a period of many years. The Indians wouldn’t give Columbus more gold because there was none to give. He also had several of the Indians killed to show the others what would happen if they disobeyed or rebelled. He was unwilling to let the Indians get away with anything and believed rigid discipline was the answer. He ignored God and made money the center of his life. The king of Spain wanted Columbus to find more gold from the new world, and Columbus wanted to gain favor in the sight of the king and queen. He was more interested in pleasing the king than doing what was right. His ambition was another thing that got in the way. He wanted to find gold, not only to give to the king, but because he wanted to make Jerusalem a Catholic city. On his journeys, he was looking for a new route to get to Jerusalem to help the Catholics take it over. He wanted to open the door to Catholic control in Jerusalem. He was more concerned with achieving his goals than doing what God wanted.

George Washington on the other hand, continued to trust God and do what he believed God wanted him to do. Because of his lack of men, he constantly relied on God to help them survive every day. Whenever the opportunity presented itself, he would sneak trapped men across rivers on windy nights so the British wouldn’t get them, and attack in the middle of a cold night to capture enemy soldiers and whittle down the odds he was facing. He let God lead him in what to do and he continued praying, and for that he was rewarded. He became the nation’s first president and helped this country become a God-centered country.

Christopher Columbus was more interested in gaining money, status, and favor in the world of men than in following God and obeying what he was told to do. George Washington was more interested in doing what God wanted him to do than doing what would give him wealth and comfort. George Washington is someone everyone today should aspire to be like. We should always follow God and listen to what he tells us. If we put God first, and do what we want to afterward, we will have a good life because what we want should be what God wants. Something we could learn from Christopher Columbus today is that, when we obey God and do what he tells us, we can have a good life. But if we start putting things of this world ahead of God and doing what we want, we will have a hard and sad life. We should never be more concerned with things of this world then with God.

Christopher Columbus and George Washington are viewed very differently from each other today. Christopher Columbus today is viewed as a person who originally had good intentions when setting sail in exploration, but turned out to be a greedy person who let money control his actions and become the center of his life. George Washington is viewed as a godly man who helped establish this nation. There are many lessons we can learn from both of them, and we should never forget the important things they did. Unfortunately, people today have shifted their attention on Christopher Columbus’ and George Washington’s lives from the fact that God was an important part of their lives, to what they did and their mistakes. Americans today don’t care about the fact that they both were believers in God, and we should care about it.

Works Cited

“Columbus Controversy.” History.com A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 17 Dec, 2013 www.history.com/topics/columbus-controversy

Hardesty, Brian. “The American Testimony: Discovery and Colonization of the New World.” The American Testimony: Discovery and Colonization of the New World The American Testimony. 2005. Web. 18 Dec. 2013 www.history2u.com/book1_discovery.htm

Marshall, Peter: Manuel, David; with Fischel, Anna Wilson The Light and the Glory For Children March Media Inc. 1992

Minster, Christopher. “The Second Voyage of Christopher Columbus.” Latin American History About.com. 2013. Web. 15 Dec. 2013 latinamericanhistory.about.com/od/thevoyagesofcolumbus/p/columbussecond.htm