Delaware High School Student Wins National John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest

For Immediate Release: April 5, 2012 
Further information: Rachel Flor (617) 514-1662,

Boston, MA—The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation today announced that Patrick Reilly, a junior at Archmere Academy in Claymont, Delaware, has won the national John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest for High School Students™. Reilly will be honored by Caroline Kennedy during the May 7, 2012, Profile in Courage Award ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston for his prize-winning essay on former Delaware Governor Russell Peterson, who, in 1971, courageously defied corporate interests in an effort to preserve the natural beauty and resources of Delaware’s coastal areas. Reilly will receive a $10,000 award for his first-place essay. 

The annual Profile in Courage Essay Contest invites high school students from across the nation to write an essay on an act of political courage by a U.S. elected official. The contest is a companion program of the John F. Kennedy 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. This year, 2,078 students submitted essays from all fifty states and Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Marshall Islands. The essay contest is sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and generously supported by John Hancock Financial. 

For more information on the Profile in Courage Essay Contest for High School Students and the Profile in Courage Award, click here. 

In his winning essay, “Governor Russell Peterson: Loyal to Future Generations,” Reilly profiles Peterson, who introduced legislation to protect Delaware’s coastal areas from industrial development despite intense pressure from a variety of interest groups. Not only was the governor’s stance at odds with his predecessors, but, as Reilly writes, “Industrial leaders believed that Peterson, a Republican and former Dupont executive, would surely support further industrialization.” Reilly goes on to explain how Peterson’s Coastal Zone Act “took the nationally unprecedented step of declaring Delaware’s coastline and waters forever off-limits to new heavy industrial development.” Peterson faced anger and pressure from corporate leaders, labor, and federal officials. The State Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill, construction workers staged demonstrations outside his home, and the Secretary of Commerce claimed that he was “being disloyal” to the country. “A lesser man would have crumbled under such a harsh rebuke,” Reilly writes, “but Peterson simply replied, ‘Hell, no. I am being loyal to future generations of Americans.’” The one-term governor stayed true to his convictions and kept the bill intact, ensuring “clean waters, pristine wetlands, and excellent beaches that continue to support lucrative fishing and tourism industries.” 

[Click here to read the winning essay.] 

“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,” said Tom McNaught, Executive Director of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. “It is gratifying to see how readily students today can identify and understand acts of political courage and their importance in our democratic society. Patrick Reilly is to be congratulated for his extraordinary accomplishment.” 

“John Hancock congratulates Patrick Reilly and all of the contest participants," said Tom Crohan, Assistant Vice President & Counsel, Corporate Responsibility & Government Relations for John Hancock Financial. “John Hancock’s commitment to education and civic responsibility is a long, proud tradition. As the company celebrates its 150th anniversary, we are pleased to support this important initiative to encourage student leadership and civic engagement.” 

Reilly will receive a $5,000 cash award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation which will be matched with $5,000 from John Hancock Financial to be contributed to a John Hancock Freedom 529 College Savings Plan. He and his family will be the guests of the Kennedy family and the Kennedy Library Foundation at the May 7th Profile in Courage Award ceremony in Boston. Reilly will share the stage with this year’s Profile in Courage Award recipients, former Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and former justices David Baker and Michael Streit who are being honored for the political courage and judicial independence each demonstrated in setting aside popular opinion to strike down Iowa’s ban on same-sex marriage. Also being honored is Robert Ford, United States Ambassador to Syria, whose bold and courageous diplomacy has provided crucial support to Syrians struggling under the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. 

Reilly first participated in the contest in 2011. He was motivated to try again this year, this time with a deeper understanding of political courage and what it would take to write a winning essay. In his search for a new topic, he came across the story of the Coastal Zone Act in Peterson’s memoir, and determined it would make an excellent topic for his 2012 submission. 

Patrick Reilly is the son of Elaine and Michael Reilly, and the brother of two younger siblings, Keelin and Melina. Reilly serves on the editorial staff of his school’s literary magazine and has had articles published in the Archmere newspaper. He participates in Academic Bowl, an interscholastic trivia competition, and is involved in the Model United Nations. Reilly is currently preparing his Eagle Scout Service Project with a local bike trail organization. He plays the clarinet in Archmere’s concert band and the Delaware All-State Band, and is a member of the fencing club. 

Reilly’s nominating teacher, Timothy Dougherty, 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. 

James Dreben, a junior at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C. was selected as the second-place winner for his essay on former Georgia State Representative Julian Bond. He will receive a $1000 prize for this recognition. 

Five students were recognized as finalists in the competition: Joseph Moon, a senior at Westwood High School in Austin, Texas, for his essay on former U.S. Congressman Robert Eckhardt; Kate Samuelson, a junior at Seven Lakes High School in Katy, Texas for her essay on former Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley; Marie Talarico, a junior at Troy High School in Troy, Michigan for her essay on New York State Senator Mark Grisanti; Eleanor Wachtel, a junior at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. for her essay on former Vermont State Representative John Edwards; and Emily Waltman, a junior at Tenafly High School in Tenafly, New Jersey for her essay on Mayor Junie White of Spartanburg, South Carolina. Each finalist will receive a $500 prize. 

Three students received honorable mention: Abhishek Deshpande, a junior at Hinsdale Central High School in Hinsdale, Illinois for his essay on Rhode Island General Treasurer Gina Raimondo; Tony Tung Nguyen, a senior at Chandler High School in Chandler, Arizona for his essay on U.S. Senator James Webb; and Kyle O’Malley, a senior at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana for his essay on City Councilman John Crawford of Fort Wayne, Indiana. 

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 was chosen by a distinguished bipartisan committee of national, political, and community leaders. Albert R. Hunt, executive Washington editor of Bloomberg News, chairs the 13-member Profile in Courage Award Committee. Committee members are U.S. Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards (D-Maryland); Kenneth R. Feinberg, Chairman of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; U.S. Senator Lindsey O. Graham (R-South Carolina); Antonia Hernandez, president and chief executive officer of the California Community Foundation; Elaine Jones, former director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; Paul G. Kirk, Jr., former U.S. Senator (D-Massachusetts) and Chairman Emeritus of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; Martha Minow, Dean and Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School; Shari Redstone, President, National Amusements, Inc; John Seigenthaler, founder of the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University; David M. Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; and U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). Tom McNaught, executive director of the Kennedy Library Foundation, staffs the Committee. 

This is the third year of support by John Hancock Financial, a unit of Manulife Financial Corporation (MFC), a leading Canadian-based financial services group serving millions of customers in 22 countries and territories worldwide. Operating as Manulife Financial in Canada and Asia, and primarily through John Hancock in the United States, the Company offers clients a diverse range of financial protection products and wealth management services through its extensive network of employees, agents and distribution partners. John Hancock Freedom 529 is a national Section 529 college savings plan offered by the Education Trust of Alaska, managed by T. Rowe Price, and distributed by John Hancock Distributors LLC through broker/dealers that have a selling agreement with John Hancock Distributors LLC. The plan offers a multi-managed approach, allowing investors to work with their financial consultants to pursue a strategy to maximize their investment opportunities while managing risk. 

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.