Lincoln Essay Competition

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.

The 2019/2020 cycle of Hildene's 8th Grade Lincoln Essay Competition has come to a close. Please check back in late November 2020, for next year's prompt.

To view this cycle's "Announcement of Winners", click HERE

To view a compilation of student-submitted readings of the 2020 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!


PROMPT 2020:

Identify one issue facing Vermont that you think your state government (the Scott administration and/or the legislature) should address. Describe the challenge and its negative impacts. Then explain why governmental action is appropriate, suggest one or more actions that state government should take, and explain why you think such action would improve the situation.


“The legitimate object of government is ‘to do for the people what needs to be done, but which they can not, by individual effort, do at all, or do so well, for themselves’.”
~ Abraham Lincoln

The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, “Fragment on Government” (July 1, 1854?), p. 221. 


2020 Lincoln Essay Competition Winners

2020 Lincoln Essay Competition First Place Essays

2020 Lincoln Essay Competition Judges

2019 Lincoln Essay Competition Winners