Winners announced for Thomas Jefferson essay contest

The three winners of the contest, endowed by the late Philip L. Carret, were celebrated at an April 10 banquet.   

Elon students Malia Takei '22, Naomi Perry '19 and Ethan Porter '22 have been selected as winners of the 20th annual Philip L. Carret Thomas Jefferson Essay Contest. 

This year's winners are, from left, Ethan Porter, Malia Takei and Naomi Perry. 
The students who participated in this year's competition responded to the following prompt in their essays: 

Thomas Jefferson grappled with profound contradictions in regards to race and freedom. The man who drafted the Declaration of Independence was also the man who enslaved hundreds of people at Monticello. Though he publicly worried that slavery was wrong—indeed, an existential threat to the nation itself—he also publicly asserted the inferiority of people of African descent.

Just over an hour south of Jefferson’s beloved Monticello, the citizens of Prince Edward County dealt with similar contradictions nearly two hundred years later. Elon’s 2018-19 common reading, Kristin Green’s "Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County," chronicles attempts to deny public education to African American students, thereby defying the mandate outlined by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education.

Keeping Jefferson’s famous words that “all men are created equal” in mind, assess how much progress the United States has made in its public education system since those early days of desegregation.

The 2019 winners, who were honored April 10 at a banquet held in the Isabella Cannon Room in the Center for the Arts, are: 

First Place: Malia Takei
Essay title: "Separate and Unequal: Housing segregation and the correlation with unequal education and opportunities within the United States public education system"
Takei won the $1,000 prize and an all-expenses-paid trip to Thomas Jefferson's home in Monticello, Virginia.

Second Place: Naomi Perry
Essay title: "Through Every Legal Means: How education discourse thwarts progress"
Perry received the $500 second-place award. 

Third Place: Ethan Porter
Essay title: "Public Schools and Socioeconomic Status"
Porter received the $100 third-place award. 

In addition, the three winners will present their ideas at the Carret-themed session on Student Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF) Day on April 30. 

The Philip L. Carret Thomas Jefferson Essay Competition is an endowed essay contest created in 1997 when Carret, a longtime New York investor, fell in love with Elon University after a visit to campus the previous year. Carret promoted the contest to have students reflect on the ideals and principles embodied in Thomas Jefferson's life and career.

Judges for this year's competition were Assistant Professor of Sociology Raj Ghoshal, Director of the Elon Core Curriculum and Associate Professor of History Amy Johnson and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Andrew Monteith. Also offering remarks at the banquet were Cassie Kircher, professor of English and coordinator of the contest, and Associate Professor of Italian Samuel Pardini, coordinator of the American Studies Program of which the contest is a part.