2011 CFOG Essay Contest Press Release

Students from Greenwich and East Lyme high schools win top prizes

Contact: Forrest C. Palmer
CFOG ESSAY Contest Chair
(203) 262-6053

Connor Harris, a junior at Greenwich High School, has won the first prize of $1,000 in this year’s Connecticut Foundation for Open Government (CFOG) high school essay contest.

His essay argued in favor of Internet voting and voter registration, but against high-school registration drives run by political parties. “Although all citizens should participate in politics, equally important is that politics works fairly for those who already participate,” wrote Harris.

CFOG, a nonprofit educational organization, sponsors the essay contest each year to encourage thought and debate among students on public and freedom of information issues and to increase student knowledge of the value of open government in a democratic society.

A second prize of $500 was won by Grace Lada of East Lyme High School. Her essay argued that burning the Quran as a political protest is protected free speech. “Threatening to burn the Quran is not threatening physical harm, but expressing, however offensively, harmless personal opinion,” she wrote.

A third prize of $300 was won by Amy Whitehouse, also a student at East Lyme High School. She argued that schools should show the speeches of politicians in class. “The Constitution that our country and government is based on allows and protects our freedom of speech,” she wrote. “With this right, can some adults really censor who is allowed to hear a nonpartisan speech from the president? I believe that they can’t.”

Honorable mention awards of $50 went to Christopher Baker and Samantha Lake of New London High School, Marum Majid of West Haven High School and Will Hallisey and Frederick J Whelan of Greenwich High School.

Students were asked to write essays on one of three topics. The topics were:

  1. A proposal to build an Islamic community center near Ground Zero prompted a Florida pastor to threaten to burn copies of the Quran. Is burning the Quran a permissible expression of free speech?
  2. There was controversy a year ago when the Obama administration wanted the nation’s public schools to allow students to watch a back-to-school speech by the president. Should schools show speeches by public officials in the classroom? Who should decide and on what basis?
  3. Should citizens be able to register to vote online? Should they be able to vote online? Should political parties be able to conduct voter registration drives in high schools?

Judges for the contest were Janet Manko, George Krimsky, Martin Margulies, Lyn Hottes and Mary Connolly.