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2103 Moral Courage Essay Contest


This essay contest uses the lens of the Holocaust to educate students about the ramifications of present-day stereotyping, prejudice, racism and anti-Semitism. The Holocaust provides a context for exploring the dangers of remaining indifferent and silent in the face of the oppression of others. In addition, this essay contest invites the writer to learn about moral courage and the personal and societal benefits that may be realized by standing up to injustice.

Although there is no single definition, moral courage can be defined as displaying an altruistic act in spite of the substantial risk of being persecuted for doing so.


The purpose of this contest is for you to (i) explain how historical or present day events illustrate or command an act of moral courage, and (ii) express your connection with, or thoughts regarding, such events or acts. Your research and writing should focus on how one person can make a positive impact.

Rules & Guidelines

  1. Writers must be Arizona students in grades 7-12.
  2. Word count is 500-750 words for 7/8, and 750-1,000 words for 9-12
  3. All submissions must (i) have a title, (ii) be typed, and (iii) be double-spaced.
  4. Two to five references must be cited in a bibliography. Wikipedia does not count as a reference. One reference must be primarily about the Holocaust.
  5. Submit your completed entry form.
  6. STAPLE (i) your essay, and (ii) your Pre-Writing Reflection Sheet to your entry form.
  7. Provide an ADDITIONAL COPY of your essay.
  8. DO NOT write your name or school anywhere on the essay. The entry form will include this information.
  9. DO NOT plagiarize.
  10. DO NOT submit more than one entry.

You will be automatically disqualified if you violate or fail to meet any of the above rules & guidelines (e.g., failure to meet the bibliographical requirements).

Step 1: Contextual Research

Learn about the Holocaust, and specifically the actions of those who resisted the Nazis by displaying various forms of moral courage. Although there are many sources available for your research, it is highly recommended that you consult the Righteous Among Nations information on the Yad Vashem website:

Consider other historical and present-day acts of moral courage or situations in which moral courage is required.

Step 2: Specific Research

Select and research a historical or contemporary event in which moral courage is highlighted. Although some students may be tempted to skip Step 1, it will be impossible to write a successful essay for this contest without having the necessary contextual background. It will be apparent in your submission.

Step 3: Pre- Writing Reflection Sheet

On a separate sheet of paper to be attached to the application:

  • Brainstorm a list of at least ten individuals who exhibited moral courage. Your list must include both Holocaust and non-Holocaust-related examples. To get you started, you might consider including people like Raoul Wallenberg, Sojourner Truth, Nelson Mandela, Cesar Chavez, Miep Geis, Mohandas Gandhi, and Aung San Suu Kyi.
  • Write your own definition of moral courage and, if you desire, why you think your definition is better than the sample definition (hint: We want your definition to be better!!!)
  • Based on your contextual and specific research, briefly explain what, if anything, was meaningful to you.
  • Specifically identify (i) the individual or group highlighted in your essay, (ii) an example of how such individual or group exhibited moral courage, and (iii) the manner in which such acts have meaning to you.

Step 4: Write

Write an essay that includes the following:

  • A summary of how the individual or group selected by you exhibited moral courage.
  • A reference to the Holocaust. Although your essay does not have to be about moral courage displayed during the Holocaust, your essay must include a connection between (i) your chosen topic and (ii) the Holocaust.
  • A discussion of moral courage and/or why this information is meaningful to you.

For Teachers

Common Core - Arizona State Standards

As a classroom assignment, this essay can meet several Arizona State Standards in Reading, Writing and Social Studies. For example:

RH 11-12.7, requiring students to Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media in order to address a question or solve a problem.

RH 9-10.9, requiring students to compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

RH 6-8.10, requiring students to be able to read and comprehend history/social studies texts, independently and proficiently.

The following websites provide valuable information:

Student Awards*
Award Division 1 Grades 7-8 Division 2 Grades 9-10 Division 3 Grades 11-12
1st Place $200 $300 $500
2nd Place $100 $200 $250
3rd Place $50 $75 $100

*Additionally, certificates of recognition will be awarded to the top ten essays in each Division.

Teacher Awards

Discretionary awards may be given to teachers for a variety of reasons (e.g., number of students who participate in this essay contest, percentage of students in a single class who participate in this essay contest, number of students who receive a certificate of recognition, etc.).

Sponsored by:

  1. Entry Form
  2. Original Essay
  3. Reflection Sheet
  4. Copy of Essay

Echoes and Reflections Essay Contest
ADL, Arizona Regional Office
One E. Camelback, Suite 670
Phoenix, AZ 85012

Thursday, March 7, 2013
Winners will be notified in mid April 2013
Thursday, May 9, 2013
"How far that little candle throws its beams; so shines a good deed in a naughty world." - William Shakespeare