John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest Winner Highlights Historic Vote for Women’s Suffrage


May 2, 2018

MEDIA CONTACT: Matt Porter (617) 514-1574

John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest Winner Highlights Historic Vote for Women’s Suffrage
– Winning Essay Profiles Former Tennessee State Representative Harry T. Burn –

BOSTON, MA—The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation today announced that Jeffrey Seaman, a junior who is homeschooled in Short Hills, New Jersey, has won the national John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest for High School Students. Seaman's winning essay profiles Harry T. Burn, a Republican State Representative in Tennessee who, in 1920, cast the deciding vote to ratify the 19th amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote. The winning essay describes how 24-year-old Burn voted his conscience, resisting pressure from constituents, local political leaders and crowds of anti-suffragists who had descended on Tennessee to protest ratification.

Seaman will be honored at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum on May 20, 2018 and will receive a $10,000 scholarship award. The first-place winner will also be a guest at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s May Dinner at which Mitch Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans, will receive the 2018 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for the political courage he displayed in relocating four of the Confederate monuments in New Orleans while offering candid, clear and compassionate reflections on the decision. The essay contest is sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and generously supported by John Hancock.

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 US elected official. The contest is a companion program of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award™, 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, 1,989 essays were submitted from students in forty-eight states, Guam, and from US citizens in the United Arab Emirates.

Seaman’s winning essay captures a riveting moment in history: the Tennessee State Legislature was on the brink of becoming the 36th and last state needed to ratify the 19th amendment. Burn had voted earlier in the day to table the vote, but that motion did not pass. He then had to make a heart-wrenching decision. Seaman writes, “On one side stood his political prospects, on the other stood what he knew was right.” Defying popular sentiment among his constituents and political pressure from local political leaders, Burn followed the advice of his mother, “college-educated and civic minded” Febb Burn, who had urged him to approve the amendment. As Seaman describes in the essay, Burn endured intense harassment as a result of his courageous vote but managed to win his seat in the next election.

“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 acts of political courage like the ones President Kennedy championed. At a time when young people are becoming leading voices in the political process, we are thrilled that Jeffrey has discovered this pivotal moment of political courage in the history of women’s rights in our country. We congratulate him for his extraordinary accomplishment.”

“We congratulate Jeffrey Seaman for this well-deserved recognition,” said Tom Crohan, Assistant Vice President & Counsel, John Hancock. “As a proud supporter of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, we are inspired by Jeffrey and all of the students who wrote so eloquently about important moments of political courage that have moved our country forward.”

Seaman’s $10,000 prize is a joint award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and John Hancock.

Along with his love of history, politics and writing, Seaman’s interest in President Kennedy’s public speaking ability motivated him to enter the contest. An AP National Scholar, Seaman is developing his own public speaking skills by competing in (and winning) speech and debate tournaments sponsored by the National Christian Forensics and Communication Association. This is not the first writing contest Seaman has won; he placed first and won a grand prize in the 2017 New Voices Young Writers contest. In addition to his academic achievements, he volunteers for donation drives for a variety of organizations and has entered gardening and baking competitions for the Middlesex County Fair.

Seaman’s nominating teacher, who is also his father, David Seaman, 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.

Jacob Zinberg, a senior at the Torah Academy of Bergen County in Teaneck, New Jersey, was selected as the second-place winner for his essay on Ben Olcott, former governor of Oregon. He will receive a $1,000 prize for this recognition.

Five students were recognized as finalists in the competition: Isabella Gentilozzi, a junior at Grand Ledge High School in Grand Ledge, Michigan, for her essay on John Austin, former member of the Michigan State Board of Education; Ji-Sung Lee, a junior at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, Missouri, for her essay on Joe Straus, State Representative and Speaker of the House in Texas; David Oks, a junior at The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, New York, for his essay on Lawrence Hogan, former US Representative (MD); Geonwoo Park, a junior at Mercer Island High School in Mercer Island, Washington, for his essay on John Spellman, former governor of Washington; and Ameena Sohail, a senior at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for her essay on Joe Schwarz, former US Representative (MI). Each finalist will receive a $500 prize.

Eight students received honorable mention: Sydney Adams, a junior at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for her essay on Chris Louras, former mayor of Rutland, Vermont; Jodi Camino, who is also senior at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for her essay on John Hickenlooper, governor of Colorado; Jackson Edwards, a senior at Franklin High School in Franklin, Tennessee, for his essay on James Horton, a former judge in Alabama; Malavika Kannan, a junior at Seminole High School in Sanford, Florida, for her essay on Ayala Aramis, state attorney in Florida; Ian Lee, a junior at Boston Latin School in Boston, Massachusetts, for his essay on Raul Reyes, mayor of El Cenizo, Texas; Zachary Medley, a senior at L & N STEM Academy in Knoxville, Tennessee, for his essay on Albert Roberts, former governor of Tennessee; Brandon Shi, a senior at Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon, California, for his essay on Barbara Lee, US Representative (CA); Maya Wernstrom, a senior at Boca Raton Community High School in Boca Raton, Florida, for her essay on Steve Gunderson, former US Representative (WI). Each honorable mention will receive a $100 prize.

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

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.

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 15-member Profile in Courage Award Committee. Committee members are Christopher Dodd, former U.S. Senator (D-Connecticut), now senior counsel for Arnold & Porter; former U.S. Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards (D-Maryland); Kenneth R. Feinberg, chairman emeritus 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; Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; former U.S. Congressman and Profile in Courage Award Honoree Bob Inglis (R-SC); Elaine Jones, Director-Counsel Emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Martha Minow, Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence, Harvard Law School, and Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor; Shari Redstone, Vice Chair of CBS; Jack Schlossberg, grandson of John F. Kennedy; and David M. Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

This is the tenth 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 14 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.