2017 Calvin Prize for Vermont Youth

January 4, 2017


2017 Writing Contest

Could Coolidge Win Today?

We made the mistake of talking too much about the deficiencies of our opponents and not enough about the merits of our own candidates. I have never again fallen into that error.
 – Calvin Coolidge on an early campaign

We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once. – Calvin Coolidge

The 2016 presidential campaign highlighted deep divisions in the United States. A recent report from the Pew Research Center finds that Republicans and Democrats now have more negative views of the opposing party than at any point since the organization starting surveying Americans on this subject in 1992. Of course disagreements between political parties are nothing new, and differences tend to be highlighted during presidential campaigns. Even so, many sense a breakdown in civility, with the Pew Center report suggesting political differences have an increasingly personal element to them.

But there is a president who, to this day, continues to be applauded for his record of civility and for his ability to work across the aisle. That president is Vermont’s own Calvin Coolidge, who served as America’s thirtieth president from 1923 to 1929. Coolidge eschewed ad hominem attacks. Even when campaigning he thought it more important to tell voters about the merits of his own candidacy rather than smear his opponents. Coolidge was able to accomplish much in office, often working with members of the opposing political party.

Yet much has changed from the 1920s. After all, in Coolidge’s day, radio was just emerging as the main form of mass media. Today the 24-hour news cycle and social media dominate. Furthermore, presidential campaigns were much shorter in Coolidge’s day and the candidates themselves did not engage in nearly the level of direct campaigning that they do now.

President Calvin Coolidge was known for his civility and his ability to work across the aisle. Do you think Coolidge could win the presidency today? What lessons from President Coolidge might help heal our political divisions? What can you do in your own life to encourage civility in America’s political dialogue while still advocating for the things in which you believe? Please prepare a written submission of 800 words or fewer that addresses these questions.      

About the Calvin Prize for Vermont Youth

The Calvin Prize for Vermont Youth is a prize named after President Calvin Coolidge and his son, Calvin Coolidge Jr. It is for writers ages 13 to 19 currently living or attending school in the state of Vermont. The first-place prize of $1,500 and the runner-up prize of $500 are awarded for the article, essay, or poem under 800 words that best answers the prompt of this year’s prize. The winners will be invited to attend and be honored at the Coolidge Foundation’s annual summer gala in Plymouth Notch, Vt. on July 1, 2017. The Coolidge Foundation is grateful to the Young Writers Project for its partnership in the Calvin Prize contest.

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  1. Deadline to submit: May 19, 2017
  2. To be eligible to compete, the contestant must be a current resident of the state of Vermont or attend school in Vermont.
  3. Contestants must be between 13 and 19 years old on May 19, 2017.
  4. Writing submissions must contain fewer than 800 words.
  5. Writing submissions may be an essay previously submitted as a school assignment or a new writing submission altogether. The submitting author may have a teacher or mentor provide feedback on a draft, but the submission must reflect the author’s own original thinking and writing.

Calvin Prize Submission

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By checking this box I confirm I have read, understand and agree to abide by the rules related to the Calvin Prize for Vermont Youth. The submitted writing is my own original work.

Coolidge Blog

When Life Strikes the President

“It costs a great deal to be president,” President Calvin Coolidge remarked when he reflected on the March 1926 death of his elderly father. In writing those words Coolidge spoke for all his predecessors, as well as presidents who came after him. Every president has dealt with tragedies and personal challenges during their tenure in the White House. Now an impressive assemblage of presidential historians have joined together to examine those challenges in the recently released book When Life Strikes the President: Scandal, Death, and Illness in the White House.

Coolidge Debate Goes to Dallas

The Coolidge Foundation’s second annual Dallas Debate Tournament was held on Saturday, 15 April at Southern Methodist University. Local debate students, and students from as far away as Houston, came together to debate the resolution “A significant tariff on imported goods from Mexico is a good policy for the U.S. economy.” More than 30 students spent the day debating this very timely issue.

Remembering the Great War

April 6th marks the Centenary of America’s entry into the Great War, as World War I was call back then.

Some of our anniversaries are more significant than others. This Great War anniversary is most definitely one that warrants public recognition and solemn commemoration. And it is especially meaningful for those of us born in the last century.

Why? The war was a mighty engine of destruction and change. The old order of things was consumed by it, with a new order taking its place. The war, no doubt, became the greatest historical force shaping the 20th Century. For example, in its wake, the United States would rise to the status of a major world power. In far off Russia, the Czarist regime would be replaced the Soviet Union, which would attempt through force and subterfuge to impose its communist ideology on the world. In the Middle East, the consequences of the break up of the Ottoman Empire into small, artificial states still haunt us to this day.

The Pilgrim’s Faith: Coolidge and Religion

If one crosses New England’s valleys and hills one will inevitably encounter ubiquitous clapboard Congregational meetinghouses. These places of worship crown the town greens of villages throughout the region. Their faith, the faith of the Puritan pilgrims, is a foundational element of the American ethos. Theirs is the faith of the first Thanksgiving, of Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” of the Salem witch trials, and of the heart and soul of the First Amendment: the freedom of religion (though most of the early Puritans came to the shores British North America seeking religious freedom for themselves, not for others). Puritan Congregationalism has shaped the contours of American civic and religious life for hundreds of years.