What makes America great? Like Machiavelli wrote in The Prince, to best see the mountains, one must stand in the valley. The theme for this year's contest is "What Makes America Great. Conducted nationwide, this VFW-sponsored youth essay competition gives students an. Her essay on the theme, "What Makes America Great," won her a $5,000 award. Ruby was sponsored by VFW Post 334 in Lake Orion, Michigan. Watch as Ruby.