In 500 words or less, students were challenged to answer the question: Is civil discourse necessary for civil society? Sometimes? Always? Never? Support your position.
"The goal of the competition is not just to promote awareness of the contributions of President Lincoln; the real goal is for these young people to relate Lincoln's values to their own lives," said Hildene Executive Director, Seth Bongartz. "This is an objective that fits squarely within Hildene's mission: Values into Action."
Hildene applauds all participating students and teachers and congratulates the 2013 winners: First Place, $1,000, goes to Isaac Dodson of Edmunds Middle School in Burlington; Second Place, $750, goes to Sarah Mangiacotti, who is a dual student at Maple Street School of Manchester and Stratton Mountain School; Third Place Tie, $500 each, goes to James Reilly of Maple Street School in Manchester and Rebecca Berlind of Edmunds School in Burlington; Honorable Mentions of $200 each will be awarded to Conor Joyce of Hartford Memorial Middle School in White River Junction, Sabrina Amorocho Laing of Edmunds Middle School in Burlington, Anneka Williams of Harwood Union Middle/High School in Moretown and Maya Homziak of Edmunds Middle School in Burlington.
Students most often responded "sometimes" and "always." "Never" was not an option for them. Some even noted that there have been times in the nation's history, such as the women's and civil rights movements, where civil disobedience was used as a method that led to civil discourse.
"Civil discourse can achieve compromise," says Isaac Dodson, First Place winner of the essay contest.
The young essayists drew inspiration from a wide range of sources to come to their conclusions from research to personal experiences. These experiences included town meetings, classroom debates, role models both contemporary and historical, school based programs that addressed differences, and observations of the dysfunction in government that results from the absence of civil discourse.
A celebratory, invitation only, luncheon will be hosted by Hildene at noon at the Lincoln family estate on Sunday, May 19, following a tour of The Lincoln Family Home. Each winner, along with their parents, teacher, and principal, will attend as Hildene's guests.