Cincinnati High School Student Takes Top Honors in National John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest

Media contact: Brent Carney (617) 514-1662

Read the 2008 Winning Essay by Laura Schapiro. (pdf)

Boston, MA- Laura Schapiro, a senior at Indian Hill High School in Cincinnati, will be honored by Caroline Kennedy and other members of President Kennedy’s family during the May 12, 2008 Profile in Courage Award ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston for her prize-winning entry in the national John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest for High School Students™.

The annual Profile in Courage Essay Contest invites students from across the nation to write an essay on the political courage of a U.S. elected official. The contest is a companion program of the Profile in Courage Award™, named for President Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, which recounts the stories of eight U.S. Senators who risked their careers, incurring the wrath of constituents or powerful interest groups, by taking principled stands for unpopular positions. The essay contest is sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and generously supported by Fidelity Investments.

Laura Schapiro will receive a $5,000 award for her first place essay. Schapiro and her family will be the guests of the Kennedy family and the Kennedy Library Foundation at the Profile in Courage Award ceremony in Boston, where Schapiro will share the stage with this year’s Profile in Courage Award recipients, Debra Bowen, Secretary of State of California; Jennifer Brunner, Secretary of State of Ohio; and William Winter, former Mississippi Governor.

“Congratulations to Laura Schapiro,” said John Shattuck, CEO of the Kennedy Library Foundation. “The essay contest honors President Kennedy who believed deeply in the power of the individual and the promise of our nation’s young people to make a difference in our world. It is gratifying to see how readily students today can identify and understand acts of political courage and their importance in our democratic society.”

“Fidelity congratulates Laura Schapiro and all of the participants," said Doug Reed, Senior Vice President of Regional Management and Public Affairs for Fidelity Investments. "Fidelity's commitment to civic responsibility is a long, proud tradition. We are pleased to support this contest to encourage student leadership and civic engagement.”

This year 1,185 students submitted essays from across the nation, including forty-five states and in Guam.

In her winning essay, Courage in the Courtroom: Judge Pamela Alexander, Schapiro described how Pamela Alexander risked her career when she ruled that drug sentencing procedures violated equal protection under the Constitution. As a newly elected judge, and the first African American female and youngest attorney to serve as a district court judge in Hennepin County, Minnesota, Alexander boldly asserted that the discrepancy in sentencing for possession of crack cocaine and powder cocaine were racially discriminatory. Although she was nominated by President Bill Clinton to serve as a U.S. district court judge, Alexander faced the consequences of her controversial ruling when she was denied a seat on the Federal bench. On December 11, 2007, seventeen years after Alexander’s ruling, the United States Sentencing Commission equalized sentences for possession of crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

Laura Schapiro is the daughter Mark and Susan Schapiro and has two older brothers, Adam and Andrew. Fascinated with legal procedures and a member of her school’s award-winning Mock Trial team, Laura discovered Pamela Alexander’s story while researching legal cases. She is also involved in theater, and recently appeared in The Music Man. Laura rounds out her involvement at school by participating in track and swimming. Laura will start college next fall, and is considering a career in neuroscience or law.

Schapiro’s nominating teacher, John Slonim of Indian Hill High School, will receive a John F. Kennedy Public Service Grant in the amount of $500 to be used for school projects that encourage student leadership and civic engagement.

Grayson Gibbs, a junior at the Atlanta International School in Atlanta, Georgia, who submitted an essay on former Georgia Representative Julian Bond, was selected as the second place winner in this year’s contest. Gibbs will receive a $1,000 prize for this recognition. Five students were also recognized as finalists in the competition. Those students are: Maximilian Bardowell, a junior at James River High School in Midlothian, Virginia, who wrote about Florida Circuit Court Judge George Greer; Oliver Conroy, a junior at Montclair High School in Montclair, New Jersey, for his essay on former Cleveland mayor and current U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich; Rachel Sarenko Smith, a junior at Baltimore City College High School in Baltimore, Maryland, who wrote about former Governor of Texas Ann Richards; and Laura Fried, a senior at Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City, Missouri and Samuel Vitello, a junior at Roslyn High School in Roslyn Heights, New York, who both wrote about U.S. Senator Russell Feingold. Each finalist will receive a $500 prize.

Three students received an honorable mention: Laura Medlin, a junior at Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh, North Carolina, for her essay on former U.S. Senator Abraham Ribicoff; Stephen Nash, a junior at Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington, New York, for his essay on former U.S. Senator William Fulbright; and Xiang Siow, a senior at Stuyvesant High School in New York City, for his essay on U.S. Representative Barbara Lee.

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences. The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation created the Profile in Courage Award in 1989 to honor President Kennedy’s commitment and contribution to public service. It is presented in May in celebration of President Kennedy’s May 29th birthday. Described by one recipient as the Nobel in Government, the Profile in Courage Award is represented by a sterling-silver lantern symbolizing a beacon of hope. The lantern was designed by Edwin Schlossberg and crafted by Tiffany & Co.

The winning essay by Gottlieb was chosen by a distinguished bipartisan committee of national, political and community leaders. Al Hunt, Washington Executive Editor of Bloomberg News, chairs the 14-member Profile in Courage Award Committee. Committee members are Michael Beschloss, author and presidential historian; David Burke, former president of CBS News; U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi); Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund; Antonia Hernandez, president and chief executive officer of the California Community Foundation; Elaine Jones, director-counsel emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts); Paul G. Kirk, Jr., chairman of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; Shari Redstone, President, National Amusements, Inc; John Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University; U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine); and Patricia M. Wald, former judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. John Shattuck, chief executive officer of the Kennedy Library Foundation, staffs the Committee. Mr. Shattuck is a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and a former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic.

Fidelity first began supporting the national essay contest in 2001. Students and teachers who participate in the Profile in Courage Essay Contest also benefit from two other generous in-kind donations. HarperCollins Publishers has donated copies of Profiles in Courage, President Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, and Hyperion Books has donated copies of Caroline Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage for Our Time, a book of 13 narrative essays exploring the political courage of the Profile in Courage Award recipients since its establishment in 1989. Copies of the two books have been distributed to teachers and schools to enrich classroom teaching and curriculum projects, as well as to encourage students to enter the Profile in Courage Essay Contest.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is a presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and supported, in part, by the Kennedy Library Foundation, a non-profit organization. The Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and the Kennedy Library Foundation seek to promote, through educational and community programs, a greater appreciation and understanding of American politics, history, and culture, the process of governing and the importance of public service.