Winning Essay by Patrick Tyson, University of Southern Mississippi
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He was phenomenal. He broke three world records and equaled another. He defied one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, showing that an African American who followed his dreams could achieve anything. Jesse Owens was an exceptional athlete, a brilliant role model, and an exemplary American. He inspires me every day.

Owens committed himself to running at an early age, sharpening his speed and agility in his pursuit of Olympic glory. His commitment encouraged me to push myself physically. I was roughly 125 pounds heavier four years ago. Upon hearing his story, something changed within me. I began to break out of my physical comfort zone. I felt compelled to fight my physique by making healthier choices, which have led me to a 30-mile Spartan Race where I will compete next summer. As I prepare to try out for the University of Southern Mississippi track team next term, I am thankful for the dedication Owens showed towards his athletic career and the mark his dedication left on me.

Owens made a statement during the 1936 Berlin Olympics by claiming four gold medals. A black man from Alabama was victorious at an event that was meant to show the Aryan superiority of Nazi Germany. Owens’s choice to use his athleticism to speak against racial bigotry was an unprecedented decision which showed that one’s natural ability is not defined by race and that Hitler’s double standards against African American athletes were ludicrous. His actions spoke louder than Hitler’s words. I try to replicate Owens’s mantra by attempting to control my tongue and using my abilities to speak for causes close to me. Owens not only pushes me to be a better athlete but also to show self-discipline and restraint when problems arise in my life. Owens has influenced me outside of athletics, as he was more than an Olympic champion. He was the author of multiple autobiographies. He was an eloquent orator who delivered speeches across the country. He even served as a public relations consultant for several large corporations. Owens was an incredibly well-rounded individual. His resiliency motivates me to branch out and discover new things. Thanks to Owens, I am willing to take opportunities that I never would have considered prior to hearing his story.

There are many African American individuals whom I respect and admire, but one person stands out to me. That man is the indomitable Jesse Owens.

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