The Lincoln Forum - to Enhance the Understanding and Preserve the Memory of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War

Scholarships & Awards

Scholarship Essay Contest

2015 Platt Family Scholarship Prize Essay Contest

1st Prize $1500 | 2nd Prize $750 | 3rd Prize $500

Our Topic for 2015 – “If Lincoln had lived...”

The year 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. How would the history of United States, particularly in regards to Reconstruction, have been different if Lincoln had lived to complete his second term. Cite examples from Lincoln's words and deeds that support your thesis.

Contest Rules

  • Please examine the rules below closely before contacting The Lincoln Forum or the contest coordinator with eligibility questions.
  • The scholarship essay contest is designed for students who are FULL TIME, undergraduate students in an AMERICAN COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY during the Spring 2015 semester. The July 31 deadline is designed to give these students time to finish their essays, if need be, after final exams.
  • You do not have to be an American citizen, but you do need to be attending an AMERICAN COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY during the eligibility period.
  • It is NOT open to high school students. Key question to consider; when we contact your college or university registrar will they be able to confirm that you were enrolled as a full-time college student during the spring 2015 semester? If the answer is no, you are not eligible.
  • The eligibility of entrants will be confirmed by the Lincoln Forum prior to the awarding of prizes.
  • Entries will be judged by the essay committee of The Lincoln Forum.
  • Deadline for entries is July 31, 2015
  • Entries must contain a minimum of 1,500 and a maximum of 5,000 words.
  • Essays may be submitted via regular mail (postmarked by July 31, 2015) or via e-mail (time stamped before midnight PST July 31, 2015) to the address below.
  • The essay must be typed and include a works-cited page or bibliography. End notes are suggested but not required.
  • There is no application form for the contest. The essay and your contact information serves as your application.
  • Applicants must include the name of their college or university with their entire and all contact information (regular and email address) must be put on the essay proper.
  • Judging will take place during the fall. The three winners will be announced at the Lincoln Forum annual meeting in Gettysburg on November 18th. Checks from the Lincoln Forum will be sent to the winners in December 2015 The scholarship prize money is designed as a reward for academic excellence. It can be used for any purpose the winner desires.
  • The essay can be sent via email ( e-mail: ) or regular mail to the address below.

Don McCue, curator of The Lincoln Shrine in Redlands, California serves as coordinator of the Essay Contest.

If the above information does not answer your question please contact:

  • Don McCue, Curator -- Lincoln Memorial Shrine
  • 125 W. Vine St.
  • Redlands, CA 92373
  • phone: (909) 798-7632
  • e-mail:

2014 Essay Content Winners

  • First Prize: Ryan Durazo, The College of William & Mary
  • Second Prize: Rebecca Carifio, Bates College
  • Third Prize: Ashby Henningsen, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)

The Topic of the 2014 Essay was:

Our Topic for 2014 – “Lincoln and the Hard Hand of War”

In 1864 the American Civil War became even more savage. Casualties rose and prisoner exchanges stopped. During William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea and Phil Sheridan's Shenandoah Valley campaign, civilian property was deliberately targeted. Was Lincoln in part responsible for this hardening and brutalization of war in 1864, or was it an unpreventable development--a consequence of war's inertia? Should he have tried to mitigate it? Was this more brutal war and its hundreds of thousands of casualties and endless destruction justified in the effort to save the Union and destroy slavery – or was it not acceptable for any reason?

2013 Essay Contest Winners

  • First Prize: Helen Yang, Princeton University
  • Second Prize: Rebecca Carifio, Bates College
  • Third Prize: Angela Topczewski, Harvard University

The Topic of the 2013 Essay was:

"Lincoln and Gettysburg: Expectations, Reactions, Consecrations"

2013 is the 150th anniversary of both the Battle of Gettysburg, and of Lincoln's most famous speech there. Why do these events resonate so much with Americans today? What was it about either the battle or the speech that made them timeless?

2012 Essay Contest Winners

  • First Prize: Orrin Gibson, Ventura College
  • Second Prize: Joshua Benjamins, Hillsdale College
  • Third Prize: Rebecca Carifio, Bates College

The Topic of the 2012 Essay was:

”Did Lincoln Free the Slaves?”

2012 marks the 150th anniversary of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. In light of the complicated path he pursued to reach this milestone, does Lincoln really deserve his reputation as the Great Emancipator?

2011 Essay Contest Winners

  • First Prize: Thomas Sanford, Washington and Lee University
  • Second Prize: Andrew Shindi, Harvard University
  • Third Prize: Lindsey Grudnicki, Ashland University

The Topic of the 2011 Essay was:

”Lincoln the War President”

2011 marks the sesquicentennial of the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861. Compared to his Confederate opponent Jefferson Davis, Abraham Lincoln had a very limited military background. How well did Lincoln adjust to becoming a war president during the trying first year of the war?

2010 Essay Contest Winners

  • First Prize: Joseph Landry, Washington and Lee University
  • Second Prize: Andrew Shindi, Harvard University
  • Third Prize: Greg Woodburn, University of Southern California

The topic of the 2010 Essay was:

"Lincoln and the Coming of the Civil War"

2010 is the 150th anniversary of the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency. Before his inauguration the following March, seven states seceded from the Union. Did Lincoln’s election in November, 1860 represent a real threat to the South? Was secession a reasonable response? Could Lincoln have done more to discourage Southern secession?

2009 Essay Contest Winners

  • First Prize: Daniel J. Bornt, University of Illinois – Springfield
  • Second Prize: James Morrow Kane, Lawrence University
  • Third Prize: April Bollig, University of Colorado – Colorado Springs

The Topic of the 2009 Essay was:

"Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln: Getting Right with Lincoln"

From his campaign announcement in Springfield, to his victory speech in Chicago, our new president has repeatedly made references to being inspired by Abraham Lincoln. Which other presidents have been inspired by the Great Emancipator?

What lessons can be learned from Lincoln’s presidency by President Obama?

2008 Essay Contest Winners

  • First Prize: Michael Cohen, Cornell University
  • Second Prize: Brian Rose, Southern Illinois University - Carbondale
  • Third Prize: Diane Samuelson, University of Nevada Las Vegas

The Topic of the 2008 Essay was:

"Lincoln at 200: Still Relevant?"

February 12, 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. What relevance, if any, does Lincoln's life and accomplishments have to the challenges faced by today's generation?

2007 Essay Contest Winners

  • First Prize: Andrew Buchwach, Depaul University
  • Second Prize: Brian Rose, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
  • Third Prize: Katherine Petti, Harvard University

The Topic of the 2007 Essay was:

Abraham Lincoln — Lawyer in the White House:

How did Lincoln’s study and practice of law prepare him for the challenges he would face during his Presidency?

2006 Essay Contest Winners

  • First Prize: Matthew Baker, Bob Jones University
  • Second Prize: Brian Rose, Truman State University
  • Third Prize: Ethan Evans, Miami of Ohio University

The Topic of the 2006 Essay was:

"Lincoln and the Mexican-American War"

2006 marks the 160th anniversary of the start of the Mexican-American War. Then-Congressman Abraham Lincoln opposed the war, a stand which may have cost him a chance at re-election. Was this decision Lincoln's greatest political mistake? Compare and contrast this decision with others in Lincoln's life that you believe were erroneous or shortsighted and discuss the political perils and moral challenges of opposing wars and the Presidents who wage them.

2005 Essay Contest Winners

  • First Prize: Jonathan Steplyk, Ripon College
  • Second Prize: Eric Li, University of Michigan
  • Third Prize: Brittany Greggorson, Georgetown University

The Topic of the 2005 Essay was:

"If Lincoln had lived...."

2005 marks the 140th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. If Abraham Lincoln had not been assassinated, how would the course of American history have changes?

2004 Essay Contest Winners:

  • First Prize: George Gilbert, Duke University
  • Second Prize: Amanda Taylor, Carrol College (MT)
  • Third Prize: Brad Reid, SUNY Stony Brook

The Topic of the 2004 Essay was:

"The Challenge of Holding an Election in the Midst of War"

Compare and contrast Abraham Lincoln's re-election in 1864 with other wartime elections in American History.

2003 Essay Contest Winners:

  • First Prize: John Bellocchio, Seton Hall University
  • Second Prize: Monica Modi, Yale University
  • Third Prize: James Alfred Stewart, Briercrest Bible College

The Topic of the 2003 Essay was:

"Lincoln's Image in Popular Culture"

Citing examples, discuss how Abraham Lincoln has been portrayed in television, motion pictures and advertising. How faithful are these images to the true Lincoln? How has Lincoln's image changed over the years? What do these changes say about each generation's interpretation of Lincoln?

2001 Essay Contest Winner was:

Matthew Dunn

The Topic of the 2001 Essay Contest was:

"Abraham Lincoln: Liberator or Racist?"

2000 Essay Contest Winners:

  • First Prize: David Byers
  • Second Prize: Colleen Bowman
  • Third Prize: Daniel Marcinak

The Topic of the 2000 Essay was:

"Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties:

Constitutional Stalwart or Tyrant?"

1999 Essay Contest Winners:

  • First Prize: Vickey Kalambakal
  • Second Prize: Gina Sandvick
  • Third Prize: Adam Tompkins

The Topic of the 1999 Essay was:

"Abraham Lincoln the myth versus Abraham Lincoln the man"