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For more than a decade, Hildene has administered the Lincoln Essay Competition informed by its mission: Values into Action. Using Abraham Lincoln’s legacy as touchstone, Hildene seeks to inspire young people to tackle important issues, underscoring the responsibility each of us has, to help make our world a better place.

The entire application packet for the 14th annual statewide Hildene Lincoln Essay Competition is now available online at for interested Vermont eighth-grade students in school or at home.

Each student’s essay and application must arrive by mail or by hand at Hildene by Feb. 26. This year, essays may also be submitted by email to An emailed submission must arrive by 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 26.

Hildene is currently open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Monday.

The Lincoln Essay Competition supports eighth-grade Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts Literacy in Writing.

This year’s young essayists are reminded of the words of the nation’s founding fathers, who in 1776 proclaimed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In 1858, while running for the U.S. Senate, Abraham Lincoln implored listeners to return to the founding document – “… if you have been taught doctrines conflicting with the great landmarks of the Declaration of Independence; if you have listened to suggestions which would take away from its grandeur, and mutilate the fair symmetry of its proportions; if you have been inclined to believe that all men are not created equal in those inalienable rights enumerated by our chart of liberty, let me entreat you to come back.”

The eighth-grade writers are then invited to focus on “the unalienable rights” in the Declaration of Independence by answering this prompt: Choose one issue that you think demonstrates how our nation either is or is not honoring the ideal that all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Give three examples to support your position. Finally, suggest one step that could either further strengthen our course or get our nation back on track and explain why this step would be effective.

The competition is divided into four regions with a first, second and third place winner chosen from each region. In addition, the judges may choose up to four honorable mentions from anywhere in the state.

Students enter the competition according to the region in which their school is located. Home-schooled students enter according to the region they live in. Essays are evaluated by a diverse panel of judges who have no knowledge of the identity of the writer.

Winners will be notified by April 10.

A celebratory awards luncheon will take place at Hildene on May 16.

The first place winners will each receive $500 and their essays will be read aloud. All winners must attend the luncheon to receive their certificates and checks. Second place finishers will receive $400, third place, $300, and up to four honorable mentions of $200 each.

In the event the luncheon must be canceled due to the pandemic, a recording of all the winning essays will be posted on Hildene’s YouTube channel where the public can currently see all of last year’s excellent essays.

If teachers or students have a question or would like to receive a packet by mail, call Stephanie at 802-367-7960 or email


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