March 29, 2007
Vol. 26 No. 13

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    Undergraduate essay contest poses questions about equality

    Julia Morse
    News Office

    The Declaration of Independence. Artist: John Trumbull, Oil on canvas, 12' x 18' Commissioned 1817; purchased 1819; placed 1826 in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol

    The newly established Jack Miller Undergraduate Essay Contest will give College students the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of equality as well as a chance to win a $2,000 prize this spring.

    Sponsored by the Center for Study of the Principles for the American Founding, the essay contest in this inaugural year poses the questions, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal. . . According to the principles of the American founding, in what sense are all human beings equal? What are the political implications of that equality?”

    Nathan Tarcov, Director of the Center for Study of the Principles of the American Founding and Professor in Social Thought and the College, said: “We felt there was no better way to begin this contest than by returning to the Declaration of Independence. Our country is based on the idea of equality, famously articulated in the Declaration, but what that equality means is not obvious. This essay question is an invitation to reflect on this fundamental idea.

    “We are very excited that our center can sponsor this annual essay contest for the University’s undergraduates,” Tarcov added. “We believe it will make a significant contribution to helping inspire the study of the principles of the American founding here at the University.”

    Contest submissions are due Monday, April 16. The writer of the winning essay will be awarded a $2,000 prize, while the second-place prize will be $500. All honorable mention winners will receive copies of the five-volume The Founders’ Constitution, edited by Philip Kurland and Ralph Lerner.

    The Center for Study of the Principles of the American Founding also is in its first year at the University. It focuses on the scholarship of the principles of the American founding, while focusing on the idea that study of the American founding is “essential both to the theoretical understanding of American society and to the informed, practical engagement of American citizens.”

    The center will annually sponsor both a lecture series and visiting professorship. This year, scholar of America’s founding Michael Zuckert, political philosopher Clifford Orwin and historian Mark Noll have all given lectures. The next lecture in the series will take place 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, in the Social Sciences Building, Room 302, with Michigan State University professor Steven Kautz, who will speak on “Lincoln’s Founding.”

    In addition, 8 p.m. Thursday, April 12 the center will sponsor a panel discussion on “After Twenty Years: Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind Revisited” in Harper Memorial Library, Room 130.

    This year’s Visiting Associate Professor Stuart Warner taught a course on Montesquieu with Ralph Lerner, the Benjamin Franklin Professor Emeritus in the College, and Professor Emeritus in the Social Sciences Collegiate Division and Social Thought.

    The essay contest is named for Jack Miller, a Chicago businessman and philanthropist who founded the Jack Miller Center for Teaching America’s Founding Principles at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. That center has funded the establishment of the University’s Center for Study of the Principles of the American Founding.

    For additional contest information, interested students may contact Stephen Gregory at (773) 702-7914 or CSPAF@uchicago.edu.