Thank you to everyone who submitted an essay. Here are the 2017 winners featured in The 2018 Old Farmer’s Almanac.
“The Historical Figure I Would Most Like to Meet and Why”
First Prize ($250)
Growing up on a farm in northern Rhode Island surrounded by a long line of German shepherd dogs sparked my soul-self to reach out to Rin Tin Tin. If I could, I would say:
I honor the journey your physical life took on that WWI battlefield where you were found. Bred to be a soldier’s comrade, you somehow defied the odds and became a force for good instead of evil. You overcame abandonment, the loss of your sister, a broken leg, and more. You inspired movies, poems, and television and radio shows, then ultimately a bloodline that today provides service dogs for children. To say that everything and everyone in our great universe has a purpose is an understatement when one realizes the people, places, and things that all had to magically cooperate in your achieving what many humans strive to do: become your highest and best self, benefiting life in general. Thank you for the unconditional love you gave to our world.
A grateful Human who wishes to remain anonymous
P.S. Thank you for reminding me of all the great German shepherd loves in my life and dogs in general.
–Loribeth Landolfi, South Kingstown, Rhode Island
Second Prize ($150)
Whenever I come to babysit, Maddie shouts “Hannah!” and gives me a big hug. We look through her old yearbooks and listen to Taylor Swift. Maddie has Down syndrome. There once was a time when people like Maddie weren’t considered worthy of society. But Eunice Kennedy Shriver helped to change that. If I met Eunice, I would ask her about her work in creating the Special Olympics and how it shifted perceptions of mentally disabled people. Her own disabled sister was lobotomized in 1941 and spent the rest of her life in an institution. When mothers called Eunice telling her that their mentally disabled children wouldn’t be accepted into a summer camp, her response was “Enough.” She immediately started Camp Shriver, created for special needs children.
This developed into the Special Olympics, a place where people with mental disabilities had purpose. When people think of the mentally disabled today, they think of people, individuals like Maddie. I can’t imagine a time when someone would look at Maddie and see a burden to society. But some still do. I would ask Eunice where to start after I witness oppression. She taught us that we must create transformations, we must say “Enough.”
–Hannah Reich, Atlanta, Georgia
Third Prize ($100)
One day, a young girl moved. On her first day of fourth grade, she walked down the hall to her classroom filled with joy. This was her fourth new school, and every first day was always her favorite.
But, when she walked into the classroom, her excitement disappeared. None of the children looked like her. At recess, she went to play but none of the students would talk to her, and at lunch, she sat alone, hearing the other kids talk about how different she was.
“Why is her hair like that?”
It went on for months. Every night she cried, wishing her hair was like the others, and begged her mom to straighten it. One day, her mom took her on a road trip to Tennessee and they went to an MLK museum. The girl walked past the pictures, until she saw one woman with hair just like hers, big, brown, and curly. “Who is that, Mom?”
“Well, that’s Angela Davis. She fought for equal rights.”
Ever since that day, I have been proud of my hair and all of my other differences because Angela Davis fought for them, and that’s why I would love to meet her.
–Sidney Stutzman-Hatchett, Hartland, Wisconsin