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For the second annual Constitution Contest, the Evanston League of Women Voters challenged seventh-graders to respond to the question, “If you were running for President, which right, safeguarded by Constitutional Article or Amendment, would be the focus of your campaign because of its importance to the American people?” The 200 entries that represented the efforts of 500 students included essays, poems, scripts, collage, drawings, paintings sculpture, songs, dance, PowerPoint, animation, stop-action video and film submissions. Volunteers, organized by the League of Women Voters, judged the entries and selected semi-finalists. A panel of Blue Ribbon Judges in the genres of written word, visual arts and performing arts selected the winners. Evanston Mayor Lorraine Morton commended all students during the award ceremony in the Joseph E. Hill Education Center on Dec. 6. The Center’s lobby became a museum of memorabilia inviting participants to use their minds, hands and hearts to reflect on the expressions of our youth and the enduring strength of our Constitution. The League of Women Voters acknowledged each winning entry with a savings bond funded by First Bank and Trust of Evanston. Written Word: 1st Place – Ryan Gaffkin and David Spencer, Haven Middle School 2nd Place – Eliza Abendroth, Haven Middle School Third Place – Jack Kremin, Nichols Middle School Visual Arts: 1st Place – Madelaine Wood and Melinda King, Nichols Middle School 2nd Place – Carola Sonder and Asha Sawhney, Nichols Middle School 3rd Place – Gabrielle Thiam, Nichols Middle School Performance Arts: 1st Place – Matt Hershenson, Jackson Thoren and Max Dong, Rhodes Magnet 2nd Place – James Long and Sam Baum, Haven Middle School 3rd Place – Aaron Stone and Quinn Cutrofello, Rhodes Magnet School Winners in each category received U.S. Savings Bonds from First Bank & Trust of Evanston: 1st place – $500; 2nd place – $250; 3rd place – $100.
2008 Constitution Contest Written Word 1st PlaceThe Long March to the 15th Amendment
The 15th amendment – known also as the Reconstruction amendment – declared that all citizens were entitled to vote, regardless of race, color, creed, or former slave status. Ratified on February 3rd 1870, it took effect when Thomas Peterson was the first person to vote in an election just over one month later.By Ryan Gaffkin and David Spencer, Haven Middle SchoolSo, even though the 13th amendment abolished slavery in 1865, and the 14th amendment three years later declared that African Americans had full U.S citizens, the 15th amendment was still thought to be needed to make it clear that all citizens had the right to vote.However, it took another century and further laws to bring this right into full effect. For instance, the Voting Rights Act (1 965) prohibited the use of; such things as literacy tests and poll taxes to prevent black people from exercising their franchise. Particularly in some Southern states, forms of intimidation had been used to reduce the black vote, including the violence and threats from groups like the Ku Klux Klan.The Civil Rights Movement, under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, sought to overcome these barriers to equal citizenship for African Americans. Just over four decades later, Barack Obama was elected as the first black President, a major historical change. It was a long way and a long time from the situation 138 years previous, when black people did not even have the right to vote. The change started with the 13th amendment and developed with the 14th and 15th amendments, opening the door of the White House to a black President.Although the 15th amendment was passed in 1870, it was nearly 100 years before it was fully put into practice. Many people could not accept former slaves being given full citizen rights as well as being allowed to vote. In fact, more laws and Supreme Court decisions had to be brought in to make sure the 15th amendment was made to work properly. In 1948, Presidential executive order by Truman, desegregating the U.S military, meant that all the battalion and ranks were to be mixed. In 1954, segregation in public schools was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, in a case known as Brown vs. Board of Education.In 1957, the army was dispatched to Little Rock by President Eisenhower to enforce desegregation. The Civil Rights Act stopped hotels, restaurants, etc. from discriminating against African Americans, Irish, and Jews.That meant that black, white, Irish, and Jews should be able to eat in the same restaurants, hotels, and bars.And now Barack Obama, an African American, has been elected for President of the U.S. We think it’s good that he achieved this, because George Bush has been in the White House for eight years. He led the U.S to a war in Iraq. So change has finally come to the U.S.””It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve, to put their hands on the ark of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day. It’s been a long time coming, but tonight because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America””. – Barack Obama, November 2008