Two High School Students Share Top Honors in John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest

For Immediate Release: April 27, 2005
Further information: Tom McNaught (617) 514-1662

Boston – Allie Comet, a 17-year old senior at Stuyvesant High School in New York City, and Kevin Zhou, a 16-year old junior from Monte Vista High School in Danville, California will be honored by Caroline Kennedy and other members of President Kennedy’s family during the May 16, 2005 Profile in Courage Award ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston for their prize-winning entries 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 about a political issue at the local, state or national level and an elected official in the United States who is acting courageously to address that issue. The contest is a companion program of the Profile in Courage Award, named for President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, which recounts the stories of American statesmen, the obstacles they faced, and the special valor they demonstrated despite the risks. The essay contest is sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and generously supported by Fidelity Investments. The two winners announced today will each receive a $3,000 first prize.

This year 2,459 students submitted essays from across the nation, including all fifty states, Puerto Rico, and overseas American schools in Guam, France, and Korea.

Allie Comet’s winning essay (doc) described the political courage displayed by Mayor Ivan Allen, Jr. of Atlanta, Georgia, who was called upon by President Kennedy to testify in support of the groundbreaking civil rights legislation he was urging Congress to enact. Kevin Zhou’s winning essay (doc) described the political courage of Humboldt County, California District Attorney Paul V. Gallegos who challenged the environmental practices of Pacific Lumber Company, the region’s largest and most influential private-employer, committing what many people believed would be political suicide.

"Congratulations to Allie Comet and Kevin Zhou on their award-winning essays and to the thousands of young people 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."

"Fidelity's commitment to civic responsibility is a long, proud tradition," said Doug Reed, Senior Vice President of Regional Management and Public Affairs for Fidelity Investments. "We are pleased to support this contest to encourage student leadership and civic engagement. Fidelity Investments congratulates the winners, and all of the participants, for their interest in government, civic involvement, and political courage."

Allie Comet is the daughter of Elaine Stogel and Howard Comet of Brooklyn, New York, and the sister of Sheryl, who is in college. Allie enjoys writing and photography and plans to attend Pomona College in California to study liberal arts.

Kevin Zhou is the son of Lily and Ye Zhou of Danville, California, and the brother of David Zhou. Kevin participates in his high school’s Student Congress and would like to work in government someday. He has authored two op-ed pieces that have been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times.

The winning students’ nominating teachers were Debra Plafker of Stuyvesant High School, and Penelope Schutz of Monte Vista High School. They will each 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.

Allie Comet, Kevin Zhou, and their parents will be the guests of the Kennedy family and the Kennedy Library Foundation at the May 16 Profile in Courage Award ceremony in Boston. Both Comet and Zhou will share the stage with this year’s Profile in Courage Award recipients.

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 May 16 Profile in Courage Award Ceremony will honor Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, former Texas lieutenant governor and state senator Bill Ratliff, U.S. Army Sergeant Joseph Darby, and Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko. President Yushchenko accepted his award at the Kennedy Library on April 5 during a state visit to the United States.

The winning essays by Comet and Zhou were chosen by a distinguished bipartisan committee of national, political, and community leaders. John Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, chairs the fourteen-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; Al Hunt, Washington managing editor of Bloomberg News; U.S. Representative Nancy Johnson (R-Connecticut); Elaine Jones, former director-counsel 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; 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.

Five students were also recognized as finalists in the competition. Aleksandra Denisenko of Niles North High School in Skokie, Illinois wrote about Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Sang Jung of the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut wrote about Senator Frank Church. Aristotle Mannan of Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire wrote about Congresswoman Margolies-Mezvinsky. Daniel Rosinki of Madison West High School in Madison, Wisconsin wrote about Senator Russell Feingold. Eugene Rusyn of Union County Magnet High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey wrote about Governor Robert Riley. Each finalist receives a $500 prize.

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 essays honoring the recipients of the Profile in Courage Award 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 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.