Lincoln Essay Competition



The 1776 Declaration of Independence proclaims:

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 US 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. (August 17, 1958; Lewiston, Illinois)

PROMPT 2021:

Now, in 2021, we ask you to focus on “the unalienable rights” in the Declaration by answering the following 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.

*PLEASE NOTE: 2021 LEC competition has closed. Winners have been announced. CLICK HERE for 2021's winners.

CLICK HERE, for LEC 2021 TEACHER packet
CLICK HERE, for LEC 2021 STUDENT packet


For the past fourteen years, Hildene has administered the Lincoln Essay Competition informed by our 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 competition is open to all eighth graders in the state of Vermont, whether they enter as part of a class assignment or on their own. Essays are judged on the student’s understanding of the subject, as well as by their ability to convey that understanding through good writing.

The inspiration and prompt change yearly, and are published in late November/early December, along with instructions for applying, rules, guidelines, tips and a sample assessment rubric. The Lincoln Essay Competition supports 8th Grade Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts Literacy in Writing.

The competition is judged in four regions. Home-schooled students are encouraged to enter, and will be judged as a member of the region in which they reside. Judges come from a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, geographical locations, vocations, religions, genders, etc., and include a mix of new and repeat judges every year.  The judges never see anything that identifies the student, their address or the school they attend.

Winners receive certificates, and cash prizes. Each region has a first, second, and third place winner. Honorable Mentions are by discretion. We emphasize to all students and their educators that the most important aspect of the competition is the process of examining a tough issue and endeavoring to articulate a well thought-out and compelling response to it. We commend all participants who show their best effort in offering genuine responses under the very particular expectations and standards of Hildene’s 8th Grade Lincoln Essay Competition.


To view 2021's "Announcement of Winners", click HERE

To view a compilation of student-submitted readings of the 2021 winning essays, please click HERE. Many thanks go out to this year's students, their families, caregivers, and teachers, for the great work they put in to presenting themselves to the wider audience - it is a joy to have the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas in this way!

2021 Lincoln Essay Competition Winners

2021 Lincoln Essay Competition First Place Essays

2020 Lincoln Essay Competition Winners

2020 Lincoln Essay Competition First Place Essays

2019 Lincoln Essay Competition Winners