This year’s prompt asked students to draw on current events, historical examples, personal experiences, or other FIRE resources to pen “a persuasive letter or essay [to] convince your peers that free speech is a better idea than censorship.” Our top submission imagined a letter from early 20th century rabbi Stephen S. Wise to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Without further ado… the winners are:
First Place – $10,000 Scholarship
- Maxwell Kearney – Westlake High School
Thousand Oaks, Calif.
(Scroll or click to read his essay in full.)
Second Place – $5,000 Scholarship
- Sami Al-Asady – Ironwood High School
Third Place – (3) $1,000 Scholarships
- Salome Augusto – Stone Bridge High School
- Jenna Smith – Kent Place School
Scotch Plains, N.J.
- Margaret Ludwig – Mat-Su Career and Technical High School
Runners-Up – (4) $500 Scholarships
- Olivia Rodgers – Quincy Senior High School
- Deepa Rao – James Madison High School
- Lily Cain – Northwestern High School
- Anjana Peddireddi – Centerville High School
Maxwell Kearney 2021 Essay Contest Winner
Thanks to everyone who entered this year. We received nearly 3,000 entries from across the entire country and enjoyed reading so many different takes on why free speech is a better idea than censorship. We’ll be publishing more of the winning essays, so keep an eye out for those. Rising juniors and seniors can enter again when we reopen the essay contest for the 2021–2022 school year in September.