October 19, 2004

Colorado Homeschooler Chosen for Grand Prize in National Essay Competition

Rachel Shafer accepts award from NEH Chairman Bruce Cole
Rachel Shafer, a 16 year-old homeschool student from Longmont, Colorado, was named Grand Prize winner of the second annual National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) "Idea of America" essay contest.

This year's essayists responded to the question, "How does the Gettysburg Address reflect America's founding ideas, and what is the relevance of the speech today?"

In her essay entitled "Looking Back on a Legacy of Liberty," Shafer wrote of the Gettysburg Address: "Its brevity lends weight to every word, and it is not only brief, but simple, with a succession of ideas as powerful and inevitable as the cannon blasts that had echoed through Gettysburg four months before." She also observed: "The tendency to grow weary of our responsibilities, and discouraged by the challenges we face, makes the preservation of liberty and unity a constant struggle. That is why the Gettysburg Address will never lose its relevance for Americans."

"Rachel Shafer's essay clearly conveys the power and impact of Lincoln's timeless words, the importance of remembering our nation's history, and the relevance of America's founding principles," said NEH Chairman Bruce Cole. "I congratulate her on her excellent essay."

Shafer learned of her selection at an evening award ceremony sponsored by NEH at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. As grand prize winner, Shafer receives $5,000.

This year's Idea of America Essay Contest drew more than 1,500 entries from 11th-grade public, private, and home-schooled students across the nation. Eligible essays, submitted by the March 15, 2004, deadline, were evaluated first by 40 history teachers. Members of the National Council on the Humanities then reviewed the highest scoring essays and recommended finalists to the NEH Chairman, who selected the winners.

 Other Resources

To read the winning essay click here

Click here to access the question and guidelines for the 2005 Idea of America Essay Contest.