President Gerald R. Ford Essay Challenge
Rules, Guidelines & Timeline
Download PDF of Rules, Guidelines & Timeline
RULES & SUBMISSION PROCESS
The President Gerald R. Ford Scholarship Essay Challenge is open to all 9th through 12th grade students. To enter, write a 500-750 word essay on the 2018 theme:
President Gerald R. Ford lived what many people would define as a life of courage. From overcoming family adversity as a child to standing up for his beliefs in college to becoming President of the United States during a time of deep political divide and social unrest, President Ford demonstrated tremendous courage. Examples of courage can be found all throughout our history as well as in our everyday lives. Is there someone in history or in your personal life that you believe exemplifies this character trait? Reflect on your interpretation of courage and share your thoughts in an essay.
New this year! Students may submit essays online at: https://geraldrfordfoundation.org/essay-challenge-form/
Submissions will still be accepted via U.S. Postal Service.
For Mailed Submissions:
- Please send to:
- Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation
Attn: Clare Shubert
303 Pearl St. NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504-5353
- Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation
- All essays must be submitted on white 8 ½” x 11” paper.
- A title page is required for each entry. It should include the following: student name,
address, phone number, e-mail, grade, school, teacher’s name, school address and school phone.
For Essays Submitted Both Online and Via Mail:
- Limit one entry per student, per school year.
- Essays must be single-sided and double-spaced, using black ink. They should also include one-inch margins.
- Judges will determine legibility of fonts and hand-written entries.
- The sponsors reserve the right to interpret the scholarship essay rules and to make decisions concerning the awards in situations not covered by these rules.
- Participation in the contest constitutes entrant’s full and unconditional agreement to and
acceptance of all official rules and guidelines, including eligibility requirements.
Entries must be submitted online OR postmarked by March 12, 2018.
No late entries will be accepted.
JUDGING CRITERIA & PROCESS
Winners will be selected based on adherence to the theme, quality of their narrative, originality of the essay, as well as their proper use of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
Plagiarism will result in disqualification. Judges will select the top three entries. Judges also reserve the right to select up to four honorable mention recipients. One out-of-state student will be chosen for an award. All of these decisions made by the judges are final.
Essays will be reviewed by judges comprised of leaders of a civic, education, and/or business background.
Finalists will be notified no later than April 13, 2018 of the Essay Challenge results. Participating sponsors are not responsible for lost, late, misdirected, illegible, incomplete essays, or essays that do not follow all rules and guidelines.
Essays will not be returned to students following the Essay Challenge.
9th-12th grade students living in the United States are eligible to apply for this scholarship.
Household members and/or children of the employees of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation are not eligible.
By participating in the essay challenge, each contestant agrees to comply with these rules and further agrees to accept the decision of the judges as final and binding. Parents or guardians of the finalists will be required to sign and submit a publicity consent form as a condition of a student’s participation in this contest.
Students from Michigan who submit their essay are eligible to receive the following awards:
- First Place: $1,000 scholarship plus a $500 Meijer gift card for student’s teacher
- Second Place: $750 scholarship plus a $250 Meijer gift card for student’s teacher
- Third Place: $500 scholarship plus a $100 Meijer gift card for student’s teacher
- Up to 4 Honorable Mentions: $250 scholarship each
One $500 award will be given to a submitting student living outside of Michigan.
Special thanks to Meijer for providing our teacher gift awards!
- Entries should be submitted online or postmarked no later than March 12, 2018.
- Winners will be notified by April 13, 2018.
- An award ceremony will be held at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in May of 2018 to celebrate all finalists. (Exact date TBD)
Excerpted from an essay by James Cannon:
Gerald R. Ford became President not because he was popular with the American public, not because he campaigned for the job, but because of his character.
More than any other president of this century, Ford was chosen for his integrity and trustworthiness; his peers in Congress put him in the White House because he told the truth and kept his word. He was nominated for Vice President after Spiro Agnew was forced to resign to avoid indictment for accepting bribes. Ford was confirmed by a House and Senate that expected him to replace a President who was also facing indictment for crimes......
Ford personified what Nixon was not. Ford was honest. He could be trusted. Throughout twenty-five years in the House of Representatives, Ford had proved himself to be a man of integrity. It was for that integrity that the highest powers of Congress, Democratic and Republican, chose Ford to be Vice President, knowing that Nixon's presidency was doomed......
Surely character begins at home, and in Ford's case we know for certain that it began with his mother.
Dorothy Gardner Ford was a strong and resourceful woman whose own character was tested at the age of twenty. She grew up in a warm, loving family in a small town in northern Illinois where her father prospered as a businessman and served as town mayor.
In college Dorothy met the brother of her roommate, and fell in love with him. Leslie King was the blond, blue-eyed, charming son of a wealthy Omaha banker who also owned a stage-coach line and a wool business.
On their honeymoon she discovered that she had made a tragic mistake. Her new husband struck her, not once but repeatedly. When they reached Omaha, where they were to live with his family, she found out that King was not only brutal, but a liar and a drunk. His outward charm concealed a vicious temper...
She decided to leave King, but discovered she was pregnant. With the encouragement of King's mother and father, she decided to have the baby in Omaha, and did.
On July 14, 1913, the thirty-eighth President of the United States was born in the mansion of his paternal grandfather, and named Leslie King, Jr. Unaccountably, a few days later, King came into his wife's room with a butcher knife and threatened to kill mother, child and nurse. Police were called to restrain him...
Divorce was rare in 1913, but an Omaha court found King guilty of extreme cruelty, granted custody of the child to the mother, and ordered King to pay alimony and child support. King refused to pay anything...
By good fortune, in her son's first year, Dorothy Gardner King met a man whose character matched and complemented her own. He was a tall, dark-haired, and amiable bachelor named Gerald R. Ford. By trade, Ford was a paint salesman; in the community he was respected as honest and hardworking, kind and considerate, a man of integrity and character--everything Dorothy's first husband was not.
The next year she married Jerry Ford and her two-year-old son grew up as Jerry Ford, Jr., believing his stepfather was his true father.
By Jerry Ford, Sr., Dorothy had three more sons, and the Fords provided a strong combination of love and discipline. Ford house rule number one was: "Tell the truth, work hard, and come to dinner on time."
Mother was a strict disciplinarian. She resolved that her oldest son must learn to control the hot temper he had inherited from King. When the boy raged in anger, she would try to reason with him, or send him to his room to cool off. During one episode, she had young Jerry memorize Kipling's poem "If." After that, she would have him recite it every time he lost his temper.
On the afternoon of Agnew's resignation, Nixon invited the two Democratic leaders, Speaker Carl Albert and Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, to the White House to get their advice about the best nominee to replace Agnew.
Albert suggested Jerry Ford. He would be easily and quickly confirmed, Albert said. Nixon turned to Mansfield. He agreed that Ford would be a good choice.....
Speaker Albert said later: "We gave Nixon no choice but Ford. Congress made Jerry Ford President."
In choosing Ford, both Albert and Mansfield believed they were selecting the next president, and that Ford had the experience, the qualities of leadership, and the character to serve as President.......
On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that Nixon must give up the White House tapes. Nixon knew he was trapped. His lawyers told him that refusing the Court order would bring impeachment. Only Nixon knew, at that point, that disclosing the tapes of his crime would also be cause for impeachment, and probably prosecution.
In desperation, Nixon telephoned John Mitchell, his senior lawyer and trusted friend, for advice, in the hope of avoiding prison.
Mitchell's reply was characteristically brief and blunt: Dick, he said, make the best deal you can and resign.
Nixon made his decision: he would send General Haig, his chief of staff, to see Vice President Ford and suggest that he would resign as President if Ford would agree in advance to pardon him.
Nixon's attempt at a deal turned out to be an extraordinary test of Ford's character......
For twenty-four hours Ford pondered Haig's proposal. He listened to his wife and three other advisers. All pleaded with him to reject the deal. Still he debated: What was best for the country?
On the afternoon after Haig had proposed the deal, Ford brought in Bryce Harlow, a close friend who had counseled every president since Eisenhower. Harlow listened to Ford's account of what Haig proposed, and with quiet eloquence brought Ford to see that any deal was tainted, and that the national interest would not be served by replacing one flawed presidency with another. So Ford called Haig and told him no deal. . . .
On Sunday, September 8--just one month after he became President--President Ford granted a pardon to Richard Nixon for all the crimes he committed while he was President. The reaction across America was outrage. Instead of ending the Watergate tragedy, the pardon seemed to reopen the wound.
Ford was shocked. He expected the pardon of Nixon to be unpopular, but he was stunned by the vehemence of the public reaction. Forgiveness was so great a part of Ford's nature that he thought the American people would be forgiving, that they would accept Nixon's resignation as punishment enough......
The pardon, coming only one month after Nixon's resignation and Ford's inaugural, also provoked a new suspicion to imperil Ford's fledgling presidency: Was there a deal between Nixon and Ford?
Responsible voices in Congress raised the question... To make a truthful response, Ford knew that he would have to disclose that Al Haig, Nixon's chief of staff, had proposed a pardon as a condition for Nixon to resign. With his usual directness, Ford decided the best way to handle the problem was for him to go up to the House, testify, and spell it out...
Ford did testify before Congress, as no president had ever done before. Before the House Judiciary Committee, Ford gave his account of what happened in his meeting with Haig. Was there a deal? one representative asked.
Ford's reply was blunt: "There was no deal. Period. Under no circumstances." .....
By pardoning Nixon, Ford hoped to close Watergate. In that he failed. But it was his judgment then, and it remained his judgment, that a two-year public trial of former President Nixon in the courts and by the press would be far more damaging to the progress and well-being of the country than a pardon. Ford blamed himself for not doing a better job of justifying his decision, but he never doubted that he acted in the national interest.