Hero Tales from American History

Flyer for Hero Tales essay contest

About the Book

Hero Tales from American History (download PDF of entire book), written by Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge and originally published in 1895, highlights 26 stories of American heroes who acted courageously when their families, communities and country needed them most. The McConnell Center's edition was edited with an introduction by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Gary L. Gregg, II.

Henry Cabot Lodge and Teddy Roosevelt chose hero tales that inspired them and that they wanted young Americans to read and remember. They knew they were missing many great people and spent a lot of time selecting the tales they wanted to share. Since the book’s publication, many more heroes have come along to serve their families, communities and country and to inspire us all. 

Video/Writing Contest for Kentucky Students, Grades 6-12

Inspired by the stories included in the book, create a video OR write an essay in which you answer the question: Who is your hero from American history? This can be either a hero that you have studied and learned about, or that you have encountered or known in your own life. Please include examples, or “tales,” of this person’s heroism. How does that person inspire you?

Who may enter: 

This contest is open only to Kentucky students. The contest will have two divisions: 

  1. middle school division (grades 6-8)
  2. high school division (grades 9-12)

Students who have completed at least 6th grade attending public, private, parochial or home-schooled students of equivalent grade status are invited to participate.

Length & format: 

  • Video submissions: Must be between 3-5 minutes in length.
  • Writing submissions: Must be between 750-1,000 words. Please double space and use an easily read font.

Submission deadline:

Your entry form, along with either an essay or video (emailed to mccivics@louisville.edu), must be submitted by July 31, 2020, 11:59 PM (EST). 


Judging will be based on the following criteria: 

  • Entry displays originality and is supported by evidence/examples (40 pts)
  • Entry is clear and effective in expressing the theme (30 pts) 
  • Entry is an organized and unified composition (30 pts)


The first-place middle school and high school winners will receive:

  • an honorary plaque
  • opportunity to appear as guests on the McConnell Center Podcast hosted by McConnell Center Director Gary Gregg, PhD
  • copy of Hero Tales signed by U.S. Sen. McConnell and Dr. Gregg
  • Additionally, their social studies teachers will receive a printed copy of each of the McConnell Center’s resources for their classroom. 


Please contact Natalie Smith, McConnell Center Civic Education Coordinator, at mccivics@louisville.edu.

Notable Kentucky Heroes in the Book

Daniel Boone

"Daniel Boone will always occupy a unique place in our history as the archetype of the hunter and wilderness wanderer. He was a true pioneer..." (Hero Tales, p. 17)

Daniel Boone (1734-1820) was an early American frontiersman who gained fame for his trailblazing expeditions, leading to his status as a folk hero of the United States.

Learn more about Daniel Boone: 

Did you know? The McConnell Center co-sponsored a Witnessing History LLC film on Boone entitled Daniel Boone and the Opening of the American West

George Rogers Clark

"He traveled out to Kentucky soon after it was founded by Boone [...] but all the time his mind was bent on vaster schemes than were dreamed of by the men around him." (Hero Tales, p. 26) 

George Rogers Clark (1752-1818) was an American surveyor and soldier who became the highest-ranking American patriot military officer on the northwestern frontier during the American Revolutionary War.

Learn more about George Rogers Clark: 

Abraham Lincoln

"As Washington stands to the Revolution and the establishment of the government, so Lincoln stands as the hero of the mightier struggle by which our Union was saved. [...] No greater man ever came from beginnings which seemed to promise so little." (Hero Talesp. 255)

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was an American statesman and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States, guiding the nation through the Civil War. 

Learn more about Abraham Lincoln: