Juan Williams and John Stossel to Address Students at Being an American Essay Contest Awards Gala

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Williams and Stossel to Address Top 27 Students in Nation’s Largest High School Essay Contest About what Being an American Means

Juan Williams Talks about Being an American

What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American?

The Bill of Rights Institute announces that Juan Williams will serve as Master of Ceremonies and John Stossel will deliver the keynote address at the Institute’s annual Being an American Essay Contest Awards Gala in March 2011.

The Being an American Essay Contest calls upon students to answer the question: “What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American?” By encouraging students to consider and weigh American values, the Essay Contest serves as a key part of the Bill of Rights Institute’s mission to educate young people about the words and ideas of America's Founders, the liberties guaranteed in our Founding documents, and how our Founding principles continue to affect and shape a free society.

“The Being an American Essay Contest encourages students to see how vital it is to the future of our country and Constitution that they embody key civic values every day,” said Bill of Rights Institute Vice President of Education Programs Jason Ross. “By thinking about the civic values evident in our Founding documents and in the lives of American civic heroes, students can begin to see how their own actions are significant in supporting the experiment in self-government started by our Founders.”

Essay entries must be submitted by 11:59 P.M. EST on December 1, 2010 for a chance to win cash prizes from a pool totaling $115,000 and one of 54 all-expenses paid trips to the nation’s capital (awarded both to teachers and their students). High school students from all 50 states and the District of Columbia are eligible to participate.

The contest, which has fast become the largest high school essay competition in the country, totaling over 100,000 submitted student essays, is hosted by the Bill of Rights Institute, an organization based in Arlington, VA.

Williams is respected as one of America’s leading political writers and thinkers and his commitment to the civic values of respect, consideration, and civility set him apart. Williams has interviewed Presidents Obama, George W. Bush, Clinton, George H. W. Bush, and Reagan as well as the nation’s leading governors, mayors, corporate leaders, artists, and Supreme Court Justices.

Throughout his award-winning career, Stossel has consistently shown his passion for America and his ability to ask the tough questions facing Americans today. Stossel has received 19 Emmy Awards and been honored five times by the National Press Club. He is also the recipient of the George Foster Peabody Award.

The Bill of Rights Institute appreciates Williams’ and Stossel’s ability to talk with people with differing views and values – a focus that is missing in America today as people become increasingly polarized. Their commitment to civil discourse and honoring the constitutional rights of others is why we asked them to address the top 27 student essay finalists of the Bill of Rights Institute’s Being an American Essay Contest.

The contest is sponsored by the History Channel and the Stuart Family Foundation.

Visit the Being an American web site at http://www.BeingAnAmerican.org for complete rules and materials, including submission details, lesson plans and background information on the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Founders, and other Americans who have contributed to America’s shared civic values.

Fast Facts:

Being an American Essay Contest

2010-2011 School Year Participating Regions:

  •     New England: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
  •     Mid-Atlantic: New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania
  •     South Atlantic: Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C.
  •     Mid-South: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee
  •     South Central: Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas
  •     Great Plains: Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota
  •     Great Lakes: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin
  •     Mountain: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming
  •     Pacific: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, US Territories, American Armed Forces Schools Abroad

Sponsoring Organization: Bill of Rights Institute, Arlington, VA.

The Bill of Rights Institute, founded in 1999, is a nonprofit educational organization. The mission of the Bill of Rights Institute is to educate young people about the words and ideas of America's Founders, the liberties guaranteed in our Founding documents, and how our Founding principles continue to affect and shape a free society.

Funding Provided by: History Channel (New York City, NY) and The Stuart Family Foundation (Chicago, IL).

Contest Goal: To explore the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and the civic values that unite us as Americans.

Essay Question: “What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American? Trace the enduring importance of this value throughout the American story by discussing: a Founding document that reflects this value; a figure from American history who embodies this value; and examples of how you have and/or could put this value into practice.”

Eligibility: Students in grades 9-12 who are U.S. citizens or legal residents and are either attending public, private, religious, or charter schools, being home-schooled, or participating in a GED or correspondence school program but are no older than 19 years of age. Military bases and U.S. territories are also invited to participate.

Essay Length: No more than 750 words.

Judging Criteria:

  •     Adherence to Essay Question
  •     Originality
  •     Organization
  •     Writing Style
  •     Depth of Analysis

Judges: High school teachers

Student Cash Prizes: Ten cash prizes per region will be awarded to students:

  •     First Prize: $5,000 each
  •     Second Prize: $1,000 each
  •     Third Prize: $500 each
  •     Seven Honorable Mentions: $100 each

Teacher Cash Prizes: Ten cash prizes per region will be awarded to the teachers of the winning students:

  •     First Prize: $5,000 each
  •     Second Prize: $1,000 each
  •     Third Prize: $500 each
  •     Seven Honorable Mentions: $100 each

Washington, D.C. Trip: The top three winners (first, second, and third places) from each region, their teacher, and a guardian will be awarded an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. in the Spring of 2011.

Contest Start Date: September 1, 2010

Deadline for Essay Submissions: December 1, 2010. All essays must be submitted by a high school teacher at http://www.BeingAnAmerican.org.

WINNERS ANNOUNCED: Spring 2011

WEB SITE AND CONTEST GUIDELINES: http://www.BeingAnAmerican.org

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