American Studies

2017 Carret Essay Contest

On March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson gave his first presidential inaugural address after a bruising, contested election involving painful personal attacks as well as thirty-six separate ballots in the House of Representatives.  Over two hundred years later and after a bruising election of his own, Donald Trump will also face a divided nation when he gives his address on January 20, 2017.

Compare these two men’s inaugural speeches addressing their rhetorical styles, specific arguments, and/or receptions after their delivery. What, in your view, are the most significant differences between the two, and what might these differences suggest about the changing values of our nation?

Here's the link to Thomas Jefferson's first inaugural address.

Carret Essay Contest submissions are due electronically to Samuele Pardini, coordinator of the American Studies Program ( by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1. Please put your name only on the cover page to facilitate blind review.

Submissions should adhere to the following guidelines:

  • While you may write from any disciplinary perspective, please use primary and/or secondary sources. Include a list of your sources, documented according to the discipline in which you are working.
  • Essays should be between 1,500-2,000 words (roughly six to eight pages).
  • Include a 300-word summary of your essay with your submission.
  • The American Studies Advisory Board will evaluate all submissions and will consider depth of insight, felicity of expression, creativity of approach, rigor of research and power of argumentation.
  • First prize is $1,000 and a paid overnight trip to Monticello, including special recognition at an evening program; second prize is $500; and third prize is $100. In addition, the three winners will present their ideas at a Carret-themed session on SURF Day (April 25).
  • Students are encouraged to work with a faculty mentor on the project. If mentors have any questions about their mentoring role, please direct them to Cassandra Kircher, coordinator of the Carret Essay Contest (