Freedom At What Cost Essay Contest


The National Constitution Center is pleased to announce the Coalition of Freedom Short Story Contest. The Short Story Contest invites 11th-grade students throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to compose short stories exploring the civic virtues embodied and demonstrated by the Founders during the drafting and ratification of the U.S. Constitution. The National Constitution Center received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation which will be used to fund first- and second-place awards to the top two short story submissions.

If you have any questions regarding the Short Story Contest, please contact[email protected].

Short Story Contest Prizes

The first place winner of the Short Story Contest will receive $10,000.  The winning short story will be published as part of the We the People exhibition at the National Constitution Center and via the Center’s online educator web page and publications. The winning short story will also will also be presented as a dramatic reading at the Center’s Annual Templeton Lecture for Economic Liberty and the Constitution.
The second place winner of the Short Story Contest will receive $5,000.  The short story will be published as part of the We the People Exhibition at the National Constitution Center and via the Center’s online educator web page and publications.

Students in 11th grade in public and private schools, as well as home schooled students, located in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are invited to participate in the Short Story Contest.

Full Contest Information Available Here


  • March 17, 2017: Full contest information, writing prompt, and rules and regulations will be available on this page.
  • March 17 to May 26, 2017: Online application is available for submissions
  • May 26, 2017, at 11:59 p.m.: Deadline for submissions (extended from May 12, 2017)
  • May 29, 2017: Short Story Contest winners will be announced
  • July 2017: Awards ceremony for the contest winners, their teachers and select guests.


Write a short story—about an actual, historical event of your choosing—with a protagonist or protagonists whose words and actions demonstrated one of the civic virtues displayed by the Framers during the time of the Constitutional Convention, the process for ratification, and the early years of the new nation.

The story must use narrative writing to bring an actual, historical event to life. The story should not be historical fiction.  In your short story you will need to accomplish three main tasks:

1. Identify and define the civic virtue demonstrated by your protagonist(s). The following are suggested civic virtues: Courage, Humility, Responsibility, Justice, Perseverance, Contribution, Respect, Integrity, and Self-Governance.
2. Tell a story about an historical event during which your protagonists(s) acted in a way that embodied the civic virtue you selected.
3. Relate the virtue of your story’s protagonist(s) to the way(s) the same virtue was demonstrated by one or more of the Framers during the creation, ratification, and implementation of the U.S. Constitution.

Selection Criteria

Short stories will be evaluated for adherence to the prompt, historical accuracy, application of narrative writing skills, and meaningful use of sources material—particularly primary documents. The scoring rubric is included in the Short Story Contest Packet that may be downloaded – See Application Instructions below.

Selection Committee
A selection committee consisting of members of the National Constitution Center’s education staff, members of the Center’s Educators Advisory Board, and members of the Center’s Scholars Advisory Panel will review the submissions and select the winner based on the submission requirements and selection criteria.

The submissions will be rated and ranked by the selection committee. The top two submissions will be awarded the first and second prizes, respectively.

Application materials, including full prompt, submission guidelines and requirements, the scoring rubric, and other supporting materials will be available here by September 23, 2016.


Applicants will bear sole responsibility and liability for all costs incurred by them in connection with this Request for Submissions.

The applicant shall indemnify and hold harmless the National Constitution Center, the John Templeton Foundation, and their respective trustees, officers, agents, employees, and consultants from and against any and all claims, liabilities, obligations and costs of any nature arising out of or in any way connected with the Contest and any acts or omissions of the applicant under this Request for Submissions or in connection with any award made pursuant hereto.

Rejection of Submissions
The National Constitution Center reserves the right to reject any or all submissions or parts thereof.

LINK: Click here to submit your entry form

Winners from Round 1 of the Short Story Contest

First Place:  “Indecisive Decision” by Aniyah Veal, 11th grader in a Philadelphia public school

Second Place:  “Perseverance in Pursuit of Unity” by Annabel Grove, 11th grader in an independent school in Philadelphia

Winners from Round 2 of the Short Story Contest

First Place:  “Inalienable Justice: A Constitutional Story” by Audrey Senior, 11th grader in an independent school outside Philadelphia

Second Place:  “The Papers that Transformed the United States of America” by Juliana Lynch, 11th grader in an independent school outside Philadelphia

This Contest is made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

No purchase necessary. Contest is open to all students in grades 1-12 who go to school in the United States. Only one entry per student.

Students must write their own individual essays on "How a particular American freedom (i.e., freedom of speech, freedom to vote, freedom of assembly) makes people's lives better." Elementary School Students (grades 1-5) are required to write an essay of approximately 100 (one hundred) words. Middle School Students (grades 6-8) and High School Students (grades 9-12) are required to write an essay not to exceed 300 (three hundred) words.

Entries will be judged in Elementary School (grades 1-5), Middle School (grades 6-8) and High School (grades 9-12) categories with the winner in each category earning a free field trip with The Constitutional Walking Tour for his/her class.

Entries for grades 1-2 can either be typed or handwritten in neat legible writing, by an adult if necessary.

All entries can either be submitted online at or via the U.S. Mail to the address below:

American Freedom Essay Contest
c/o The Constitutional Walking Tour
P.O. Box 2066
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Please note that entries submitted via U.S. Mail must include the contest entry form (pdf format). Handwritten entries from grades 1-2 must be submitted in hard copy via U.S. Mail to the address above.

Only one entry per student, although teachers are encouraged to enter multiple times for various students using our online submission tool.

Winning entries will be judged based on content and style including originality of thought, clarity of expression and analysis, as appropriate by school category. Judging will be conducted by The Constitutional Walking Tour and will be done so in its sole reasonable discretion, and all of its decisions are final.

The free field trip includes tickets for up to 45 people total (including students and chaperones) to go on The Constitutional Walking Tour of Philadelphia, but does not include transportation to/from Historic Philadelphia and admission into any of the sites along the 1.25 mile, 75 minute outdoor walking adventure. The free field trip also does not include any meals or snacks.

The free field trips must be scheduled in advance with The Constitutional in writing, and are based on availability. All field trips must be taken on or before April 13, 2018.

If the winning schools wish to add additional students or chaperones to attend The Constitutional Walking Tour, the cost for doing so is $11.00 per student and $15.00 per chaperone. These prices are current as of August 31, 2017, but the prices are subject to change without notice. No credit will be given for any unused portion of a free field trip.

All entries become the property of The Constitutional Walking Tour of Philadelphia and may be published either online and/or in print.

The Constitutional Walking Tour of Philadelphia is not responsible for any lost, misdirected or delayed entries. Entries received by telephone, fax, courier or personal delivery will not be accepted.

The winners and all of the attendees on the free field trips are also subject to all of the Terms & Conditions posted online at,

To view the winning essay entries, please click here


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