Essay by Port Washington's Carmiel Schickler judged best in NEH's "Idea of America" contest
Carmiel "Carmi" Schickler, a 17-year-old student from Port Washington, N.Y., was named Grand Prize winner of the third annual "Idea of America" Essay Contest for high school juniors, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced today. Schickler learned of his selection at an award ceremony sponsored by NEH at the Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C. The annual student essay contest is part of the Endowment's We the People initiative to strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture. As grand prize winner, Schickler receives $5,000.
This year's essayists responded to the question, "How were the tenets of . . . totalitarian movements different from the ideals that unite Americans? How did the ideals embodied in the American founding prevail?"
"Carmi Schickler's essay explores the roots of Nazism, fascism, and communism and makes a strong argument to explain how America's founding principles withstood these 20th-century challenges," says NEH Chairman Bruce Cole. "I congratulate him on his excellent essay."
In his essay, Schickler wrote: "With [World War I] having left countries vulnerable, movements with totalitarian aspirations began to spring up. These parties sought to create and exploit scapegoats, and were more successful than ever before, as was the case with the Italian fascists and the German Nazis, and with the communists in Russia." He also wrote: "Although authoritarian rule may appeal to a group of people at first, the government almost always eventually manages to exploit its position and create disillusionment within the people, thereby causing a widespread resentment of the government. . . . In America, however, because rule is always by 'we, the people' and for the sake of the same group, pressure to completely change the system of government within the nation is rarely, if ever, felt."
Schickler's essay is available online.
Earlier this month Schickler and five other student essayists were named winners of the 2005 "Idea of America" Essay Contest. All six participated in Tuesday's ceremony and received medallions in recognition of their achievements. Other students recognized for their outstanding essays were Ian Gilbert, 17, of Beverly Hills, Mich.; Danielle Lindsay, 17, of Melville, N.Y.; Emily Lockwood, 18, of Conyers, Ga.; Matthew Schumann, 18, of Ridgefield, Conn.; and Kevin Zhou, 16, of Danville, Calif. The five winners each receive a prize of $1,000.
This year's "Idea of America" Essay Contest drew entries from 11th-grade public, private, and home-schooled students across the nation. Eligible essays, submitted by the April 15, 2005, deadline, were evaluated first by 16 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.
NEH gratefully acknowledges major support provided to We the People by the History Channel.