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$10,000 Profile in Political Courage Essay Contest Due 1/14

December 16, 2021

Submit your entry to The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest by January 14th. The contest is open to 9th-12th grade high school students and to students under the age of twenty enrolled in a GED program. The contest will award one $10,000 prize; one $3,000 prize; five $1,000 prizes; and eight $100 prizes.

Contest Topic: Describe and analyze an act of political courage by a U.S. elected official who served during or after 1917, the year John F. Kennedy was born. Include an analysis of the obstacles, risks, and consequences associated with the act. The essay may concern an issue at the local, state, national, or international level. See the contest FAQ page for more details on how the scholarship defines an act of political courage.

Requirements: The maximum word count is 1,000 with a minimum of 700, not including citations and bibliography. Use at least five varied sources such as government documents, letters, newspaper articles, books, and/or personal interviews.

Nominating Teacher: All students must list the name of their nominating teacher on the registration form. The role of a nominating teacher is to provide students with support and advice during the writing of their essay. Nominating teachers are also asked to read students’ essays to make suggestions for improvement before they are submitted to the essay contest. Nominating teachers can be former or current teachers, but must still be teaching at the same high school as the essay participant. Usually students ask their English or History/Social Studies teachers.


1. Your work must be original. Be sure to check carefully against accidental plagiarism of your sources.

2. The essay is not a biography of the elected official. It is a focused analysis of an act of political courage that proves how the elected official risked his or her career to take a stand for the public good. You may weave in biographical information, but your essay should focus on the actions or political positions of the elected official and what consequences he or she faced as a result of those actions or positions.

3. Although the president of the United States is an elected official, and in many cases displays political courage, the scholarship committee recommends that you do not write about a current or past president. Judges carefully evaluate the subject of each essay to assess whether it is a thoughtful and original choice. Participants are encouraged to write profiles of subjects whose stories are less well known than that of a president of the United States. This is an opportunity to profile an official in your town, state or region, or a leader who has addressed an issue of great concern to you. Note that essays about the eight senators in JFK’s Profiles in Courage or JFK himself will be disqualified.

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