Roslyn New York High School Student Receives Top Honors in the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest

For Immediate Release: April 2, 2003
Further information: Ann Scanlon (617) 514-1662

Boston—Michael Sloyer, a 17-year-old junior at Roslyn High School in Roslyn Heights, New York, has written the winning essay in the 2003 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest for High School Students. On May 12, Caroline Kennedy will honor Michael Sloyer at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s Profile in Courage Award Ceremony at the Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston. Robert Becker, the Roslyn High School teacher who nominated Michael Sloyer for the prize, will also be recognized.

Michael Sloyer’s winning essay, "One Man with Courage Makes a Majority," describes the political courage of the late Wayne L. Morse, a U.S. senator from Oregon, who voted against the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized President Johnson to engage American troops in Vietnam without a formal congressional declaration of war. Senator Morse actively spoke out against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, when it was unpopular to do so and in spite of the consequences to his political career. After four terms in the U.S. Senate, Morse lost his seat in 1968 to Robert Packwood, whose campaign focused on Morse’s anti-war position.

A total of 2,009 essays were submitted by high-school students from across the nation to the annual contest which asks students to write a compelling essay about a U.S. elected official, past or present, who has displayed political courage and worked to make a difference in the world.

Named for President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, which recounts the stories of eight U.S. senators who risked their careers to fight for what they believed in, the Profile in Courage Essay Contest is sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and supported by Fidelity Investments through its Fidelity Cares program. The winner receives a $3,000 prize. The winner’s nominating teacher receives 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.

Explaining Morse’s position, Sloyer writes: "Under the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Morse believed, Congress had surrendered its power, and in doing so, had surrendered the power of the people that it was elected to represent. In Morse’s words, Congress had given the president and the military a ‘blank check’ to be paid with taxpayer’s money and citizens’ lives."

Sloyer describes Morse’s political courage, stating: "Despite public opinion, Senator Morse indefatigably displayed the resolve and the determination to stand up for what he believed in, not because he was looking for gratitude, but because he truly had the courage to do so."

"Congratulations to Michael Sloyer on his award-winning essay and to the thousands of young people from across the nation who submitted essays," said John Shattuck, CEO of the Kennedy Library Foundation. "The essay contest fittingly honors President Kennedy who believed deeply in the power of the individual and the promise of our nation’s young people. It is gratifying to see how readily students today can identify and understand acts of political courage and their importance in our democratic society."

Michael Sloyer is the son of Alan and Michele Sloyer of Roslyn, New York, and the brother of Ali Sloyer and Drew Sloyer. A three-sport varsity athlete at Roslyn High, Michael participates in peer-AIDS education, works with mentally challenged adults, writes for his school newspaper, and volunteers at homeless shelters on Long Island. Michael Sloyer and his family will be the guests of the Kennedy family and the Kennedy Library Foundation at the May 12th Profile in Courage Award ceremony in Boston.

The May 12th Profile in Courage Award Ceremony will honor former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes, former South Carolina Governor David Beasley, and former Georgia State Representative Dan Ponder, Jr. as the 2003 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award recipients for their acts of political courage as elected officials who withstood strong opposition from constituents, powerful interest groups or adversaries to follow what they believed to be the right course of action. Barnes and Beasley are being recognized for the decisions of conscience each man made when seeking to resolve his state’s divisive political debate over the public display of the Confederate battle emblem. Ponder is being honored for his act of political and personal courage that led to the passage of Georgia’s first hate-crimes legislation.

The John F. Kennedy 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 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.