Burlington High School’s Tiedt wins state VFW contest
By Jason Arndt
Sophomore Porter Tiedt recently became the first Burlington High School student in history to win the state competition for the “Voice of Democracy” Audio-Essay program presented by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Tiedt, one of just 53 national winners among more than 30,000 competitors, will represent the State Wisconsin during an all expenses paid five-day trip to Washington, D.C. in early March that includes a tour of historic landmarks, including the White House, as well as a opportunity to meet the President of the United States.
He advanced to the state competition after he won the local contest through VFW Post 2823, of Burlington, which has partnered with Burlington High School’s honors speech class for the last seven years.
Annually, the VFW presents a different theme, with this year’s focus asking the question: “What Are the Greatest Attributes of Our Democracy?”
“Porter has shown a thoughtful gratitude and love for his country that is truly inspirational,” said BHS Speech and Media Instructor Matt Nie, who oversees the honors speech class.
Influences include family, teachers
Tiedt, the youngest of five children, used his two grandfathers, Allen Tiedt and Kenneth Koehnke as well as brother Hegeman as motivation for his audio essay.
While Allen Tiedt served in the U.S. Marine Corps, his other grandfather, Kenneth Koehnke was a member of the U.S. Navy.
Hegeman, Porter’s second oldest brother, presently serves in the Army much like Kenneth.
“They definitely inspired me to write a good paper and to make sure I wrote about the right things,” Porter said.
Additionally, he credited his mother, Heidi, as well as other brothers, including Cru, Malik, Zeke, along with several BASD English teachers who helped guide him.
“I would just like to thank the teachers, Mr. Nie for giving me the opportunity and all the English teachers I have had in the past that have brought me to this place,” he said.
Surprised by honor
In his three-page paper, Tiedt outlined several assets of a strong democracy, including protection of individual rights such as the right vote, freedom of assembly, a strong education system, among others.
When Tiedt received notification he won, according to Nie, the representative mentioned he had never seen a sophomore win the honor because it is often awarded to a senior.
“I did not expect this at all,” he said. “When I received the call, I was beyond excited for the opportunity.”
He acknowledged other classmates had equally impressive essays.
“I knew some people in my class are definitely great writers, for sure, and I feel like the competition helped me push myself,” he said.
In March, during his five-day trip, Tiedt will visit multiple sites, including Arlington National Cemetery, the Vietnam Memorial Wall, the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, and the White House.
Other landmarks and historically prominent locations include Mount Vernon, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and several more.
Among the historic landmarks and whirlwind meetings, Tiedt said he wants to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider as well as interact with national representatives of the VFW.
“It is extremely important and I am looking forward (to seeing the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier),” Tiedt said.
The parade of winners ceremony will be live streamed at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 4, when Tiedt and others will be recognized, with access available at www.vfw.org.
In June, Tiedt will attend an American Youth Leadership program at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania as part of winning the state competition.
Tiedt, who already collected a $1,500 scholarship with the state win, could take in another $1,000 if he wins on the national stage.