NEH Announces 2004 Idea of America Essay Contest

WASHINGTON, (January 20, 2004)

Second annual contest for 11th-graders continues Endowment's We the People initiative

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) invites all eligible high school juniors to enter the 2004 Idea of America Essay Contest, which begins today. Open to 11th-grade students and 16- and 17-year-old home-schooled students, the 2004 Idea of America Essay Contest offers a cash prize of $5,000 for the author of the winning essay. Five national finalists will each receive cash prizes of $1,000. The deadline for entries is March 15, 2004.

As part of NEH's We the People initiative, the Idea of America Essay Contest encourages students to think and write analytically about significant events and individuals in American history.

"The Idea of America Essay Contest cultivates good citizenship in our students," said NEH Chairman Bruce Cole. "To make history, students need to know their history. These essays will examine the defining principles of our nation and explore the American story--a story of ordinary men and women and their extraordinary deeds in pursuit of great ideas and ideals."

For the 2004 contest students will answer the question, "How does President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address reflect America's founding ideas, and what is the relevance of the speech today?"

Essay judges will consider whether the essay demonstrates a strong understanding of American History, presents a focused and well-reasoned consideration of the topic, displays originality in analysis and composition, and exhibits clear writing and proper spelling and grammar.

Eligible students are encouraged to submit their 7,500-character (approximately 1,200-word) essays online at the Endowment's Web site (, which also offers specific guidelines for entering the contest, the text of the Gettysburg Address, and other available resources.

NEH will announce the winner and five national finalists this fall and will honor them with an award ceremony in Washington, D.C. The winning essay will be published in a national forum.

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