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

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

– Winning Essay Profiles Former US Representative William McCulloch (OH)–

Boston, MA—The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation today announced that Daud Shad, a senior at Mountain Lakes High School in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, has won the national John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest for High School Students. Shad's winning essay profiles William Moore McCulloch, a Republican U.S. congressman from Ohio who in 1963, risked his reputation, career, and standing in the Republican Party when he agreed to support civil rights legislation introduced by President Kennedy. The winning essay describes how McCulloch played an instrumental role in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, despite fierce opposition from his constituents and many Republican congressmen.

Shad will be honored at the Kennedy Library on May 8, 2017 and will receive a $20,000 scholarship award, double the usual first-prize amount in celebration of the JFK Centennial. The first-place winner will also be a guest at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s May Dinner at which former President Barack Obama will receive the 2017 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. The essay contest is sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and generously supported by John Hancock.

[Click here to read the winning 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 AwardTM, named for 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, to make difficult decisions in the public interest. This year, 2,248 essays were submitted from students in all fifty states and Washington, D.C., and from US citizens in Bulgaria, Canada, China, England, Germany, Japan, and South Korea.

In his winning essay, Shad recounts how McCulloch, who represented a rural and conservative district in Ohio, agreed to a request by the Kennedy administration to help lead what promised to be a difficult fight to pass civil rights legislation. Shad writes that though McCulloch “was met with disapproval across Congress,” and faced severe criticism for working with the Kennedy administration, “it was his courage in the face of disapproval that was essential to the bill’s success.” McCulloch was able to convince 60 Republicans to vote in favor of the legislation,paving the way for its successful passage in the House. President Johnson eventually signed the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964.

“Each year, the Profile in Courage Essay Contest introduces thousands of young people to the concept of political courage and its importance in our democratic society,” said Steven M. Rothstein, Executive Director of the Kennedy Library Foundation. “It is rewarding to see how readily students today can identify these acts of political courage. And as we celebrate the centennial of President Kennedy’s birth, it is especially poignant to have the winning essay highlight William McCulloch and his role in supporting JFK’s fight for civil rights. We congratulate Daud Shad for his extraordinary accomplishment.”

“We are proud to support the Kennedy Library Foundation and join them in congratulating Daud Shad,” said Tom Crohan, Assistant Vice President & Counsel, John Hancock. “As the Library celebrates the JFK Centennial, we hope all students who participated in this competition gained a deeper understanding of President Kennedy’s legacy and better appreciate the importance of political courage and active civic engagement.”

Shad’s $20,000 prize is a joint award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and John Hancock.

Daud Shad is a senior at Mountain Lakes High School where he is president of both the Student Government Association and the National Honor Society. A volunteer firefighter, Shad serves as a mentor at Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and as an officer for Morris County Operation Smile. He is the son of doctors Saima Shafiq and Rauf Shad, and has an older brother Hamza who attends the University of Chicago. In September, Shad will begin undergraduate work at Yale University where he plans to further develop his writing skills while studying political science and human rights.

Shad’s nominating teacher, Jerome Leonardi, 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.

Christina Li, a senior Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, Illinois was selected as the second-place winner for her essay on Ralph Carr, former governor of Colorado. She will receive a $1,000 prize for this recognition.

Five students were recognized as finalists in the competition: Michelle Hasenkampf, a senior at Pope John Paull II Catholic High School in Slidell, Louisiana for her essay on William Marlands, former Michigan State representative; Emma Hubbard, a sophmore at the Institute of Notre Dame in Baltimore, Maryland for her essay on James Morrison, former US representative from Louisiana; Rishi Meswani, a sophomore at Montville Township High School in Montville, New Jersey, for his essay on Herbert Lehman, former US senator of New York; Avery B. Sherffius, a junior at Hopkinton High School in Hopkinton, Massachusetts for his essay on Ann Richards, former governor of Texas; and Jane Wang, a junior at Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona for her essay on Harry Burn, former Tennessee State representative. Each finalist will receive a $500 prize.

Three students received honorable mention: Zoe Forest, a senior at El Segundo High School in El Segundo, California for her essay on Rose Bird, former Supreme Court Justice of California; Matthew Lichtblau, a sophomore at James W. Robinson, Jr. Secondary School in Fairfax, Virginia for his essay on Russell Feingold, former US senator of Wisconsin; and Sarah Ruan, a junior at Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego, California for her essay on Joseph Tydings, former US senator, Maryland. Each honorable mention will receive a $100 prize.

In honor of the JFK centennial celebration, fifteen students received JFK100 scholarship awards of $100. [Click here for the list.]

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions in the public interest 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.

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

The recipients of this prestigious award for political courage are selected by a distinguished bipartisan committee of national, political, and community leaders. Albert R. Hunt, columnist for Bloomberg View, chairs the 14-member Profile in Courage Award Committee. Committee members are Christopher Dodd, former U.S. Senator (D-Connecticut) and CEO, Motion Picture Association of America; former 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 Jeff Flake (R-Arizona); Adam Frankel, former speechwriter to President Barack Obama, now Senior Director, CEO Communications at PepsiCo; U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D- Hawaii); Antonia Hernandez, president and chief executive officer of the California Community Foundation; former U.S. Congressman Bob Inglis (R-SC); Elaine Jones, director-counsel emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Martha Minow, Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law at Harvard Law School; Shari Redstone, Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of Viacom Inc. and Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of CBS Corporation; Jack Schlossberg, grandson of John F. Kennedy; and David M. Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

This is the ninth year of support by John Hancock, a part of Manulife Financial Corporation (MFC), a leading international financial services group with principal operations in Asia, Canada and the United States. Operating as Manulife Financial in Canada and Asia, and primarily as John Hancock in the United States, our group of companies offers clients a diverse range of financial protection products and wealth management services through an extensive network of employees, agents and distribution partners.


The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation is a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization founded in 1984 with the purpose of carrying President Kennedy’s legacy forward. The Foundation aims to inspire and engage both Americans and people throughout the world with his timeless vision of public service, civic responsibility, civil rights, scientific discovery and creative cultural pursuits and ideals of peace, optimism and service, so they may learn how to translate them into action. As a major part of this mission, the Foundation supports the work of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, whose core function is to collect, preserve, and make available for research, the documents, audiovisual material and memorabilia of President Kennedy, his family, and his contemporaries. Today, the Kennedy Library in Boston is one of the most visited of the 13 presidential libraries in America. Over 200,000 people from around the globe visit the museum each year, and the Foundation serves 25,000 students annually through a host of free educational programs. Millions also access the resources electronically from around the world.