The American National Tree at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia

As every writer and reader knows, words have power: to express important ideas, beliefs and feelings; to explain the world; even to create a nation. Nearly two hundred and twenty five years ago, on September 17, 1787, delegates to the Philadelphia Convention signed a pivotal piece of writing that formed the basis of our nation—the Constitution. Across the nation and in Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center, each September 17 Constitution Day marks that momentous event.

The American National Tree, a popular exhibit at the Constitution Center, tells the stories of 100 Americans whose actions have helped write the story of the Constitution. On September 17, a new story will be added—and you may be its scholarship-winning author!

The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers invites all 9th, 10th, and 11th graders who have earned Gold Keys in The Scholastic Writing Awards to enter the 2012 M.R. Robinson National Constitution Center American National Tree Award. To do so, submit a biographical essay about one of the historically important Americans listed at the bottom of the page.

If your essay is selected,

  • it will be added to the tree on September 17,
  • you will be invited to Philadelphia to see your essay added to the tree, and
  • you will earn a $1,000 scholarship!

For inspiration, read last year’s award-winning essay by Ruthie Prillaman on Abel Meeropol here. And check out the response from Meeropol’s son.

To apply for the American National Tree Award, select one of the constitutionally important Americans below and write a 250-500 word biographical essay. Send it no later than August 1, 2012 (or as soon as possible!) to American National Tree Award, The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, 557 Broadway, New York, NY, 10012, or email it to info@artandwriting.org, subject line: American National Tree Award

Have fun, and good luck!

From left: David Eisner, President, National Constitution Center; 2011 American National Tree Award winner Ruthie Prillaman; Virginia McEnerney, Executive Director, Alliance for Young Artists & Writers; and Michael Meeropol, son of the Abel Meeropol

The 2012 American National Tree Nominees

Al Smith
An American statesman who was elected the 42nd Governor of New York three times, and was the Democratic U.S. presidential candidate in 1928. He was the foremost urban leader of the efficiency-oriented Progressive Movement, and was noted for achieving a wide range of reforms as governor in the 1920s.  Smith was the first Catholic Presidential nominee of a major political party. As a committed “wet” (anti-Prohibition candidate), he attracted millions of voters of all backgrounds, particularly those concerned about the corruption and lawlessness brought about by the Eighteenth Amendment.

Betty Ford
First Lady of the United States from 1974 to 1977 during the presidency of her husband Gerald Ford.  As First Lady, she was active in social policy and created precedents as a politically active presidential wife.  Ford was noted for raising breast cancer awareness following her 1974 mastectomy and was a passionate supporter of, and activist for, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Pro-choice on abortion and a leader in the Women’s Movement, she gained fame as one of the most candid first ladies in history, commenting on every hot-button issue of the time, including feminism, equal pay, the ERA, sex, drugs, abortion, and gun control. She also raised awareness of addiction when she announced her long-running battle with alcoholism in the 1970s.  Following her White House years, she continued to lobby for the ERA and remained active in the feminist movement. She is the founder, and served as the first chair of the board of directors, of the Betty Ford Center for substance abuse and addiction and is a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal (co-presentation with her husband, Gerald R. Ford, October 21, 1998) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (alone, presented 1991, by George H. W. Bush).

Frances Perkins
U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945, and the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet. As a loyal supporter of her friend, Franklin D. Roosevelt, she helped pull the labor movement into the New Deal coalition. She and Interior Secretary Harold Ickes were the only original members of the Roosevelt cabinet to remain in office for his entire presidency.

During her term as Secretary of Labor, Perkins championed many aspects of the New Deal, including the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Public Works Administration and its successor the Federal Works Agency, and the labor portion of the National Industrial Recovery Act. With The Social Security Act she established unemployment benefits, pensions for the many uncovered elderly Americans, and welfare for the poorest Americans. She pushed to reduce workplace accidents and helped craft laws against child labor. Through the Fair Labor Standards Act, she established the first minimum wage and overtime laws for American workers, and defined the standard 40-hour work week. She formed governmental policy for working with labor unions and helped to alleviate strikes by way of the United States Conciliation Service, Perkins resisted having American women be drafted to serve the military in World War II so that they could enter the civilian workforce in greatly expanded numbers.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
American investigative journalists who, while at The Washington Post, teamed up and did the majority of the most important news reporting on the Watergate scandal. These scandals led to numerous government investigations, the indictment of a vast number of White House Officials such as H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, Charles Colson, and John Mitchell, and the eventual resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Alexander Haig
A United States Army general who served as the United States Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan and White House Chief of Staff under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He also served as Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, the second-highest ranking officer in the Army, and as Supreme Allied Commander Europe commanding all US and NATO forces in Europe.

Haig has been largely credited with keeping the government running while President Nixon was preoccupied with Watergate, and was seen as the “acting president” in Nixon’s last months. Haig also played an instrumental role in finally persuading Nixon to resign. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Nixon had been assured of a pardon by then-Vice President Gerald Ford if he would resign.

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9 comments

  1. [...] About The Alliance « The American National Tree Challenge! [...]

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  3. Lily

    When will we know who the winners are?

  4. Thanks for asking! The winner will be announced next week.

  5. Lily

    Thanks! Will be looking forward to the results :D

  6. Niyathi

    Is there a specific date? I wouldn’t ask, but I’m abroad at the moment and have very limited access to internet, for which we must pay. If I could know the date of the winner’s announcement, it would make things much easier. Thanks!

  7. Niyathi

    Where is the winner announced?

  8. A winner was selected last week, but it has not officially been announced yet. We’re currently in the process of emailing all participating students with the results. Look forward to receiving something from us by Friday! Thanks!

  9. [...] because he wrote the essay about Ms. Ford, which earned him a $1,000 scholarship and the 2012 M.R. Robinson National Constitution Center American National Tree Award! You can read the essay [...]

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