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Philip L. Carret Thomas Jefferson Essay Competition

This is a guide to the Philip L. Carret Thomas Jefferson Essay Competition. The essay competition was endowed in 1997 and was designed to have students reflect on the principles and ideals in Thomas Jefferson's life and career.

2016 Carret Essay Prompt

Both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thomas Jefferson chose their words carefully in order to confront problems specific to their generation and historical context.  Both have also entered into the pantheon of “Great Americans,"" and their words—etched in marble, republished, and quoted endlessly—have assumed a “timeless” quality, like secular scripture for our democracy.

Please compare Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Why We Can’t Wait and a text (or texts) of your choice by Thomas Jefferson. You may address their rhetorical styles, specific arguments, and/or contemporary or subsequent reception. What, in your view, is the most significant difference between the two, and what might this difference signify about American history or values?

2016 Essay Winners

Name Award Title
Lauryl Fischer First Place "The Changing Rhetoric of Revolution: Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., Michael Brown, and Black Lives Matter"
Greg Fulcher Second Place “King and Jefferson: The Challenges of Modern Democracy.”
Gregory Melanson Third Place “Echoes in History Between Thomas Jefferson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”