The George Gund Award is a $2,500 cash prize awarded annually at Honors Day for an exceptional essay that examines the American form of republican government as set forth in the United States Constitution. The award was established in 1952 by George Gund, H'50, longtime trustee of the College, father of Graham Gund, '63, and former chair of the Cleveland Trust Company.
For the 2022 award, we seek essays addressing this prompt:
When asked what kind of political regime the writers of the Constitution had decided upon, Benjamin Franklin famously said, “a republic, if you can keep it!” The United States has kept its republic, where sovereignty rests in the people, exercised by elected representatives, authority rests in the law, not the office holder, and the bill of rights guarantees individual civil and political liberties. Yet surveys show many Americans are dissatisfied with how the American political regime functions in our time and a substantial minority are not even sure that liberal democracy is essential.
The latest World Values Survey found fewer than 30% of Americans under age 30 said that democracy is "absolutely essential" (a 10 on a 1-10 scale). (By comparison, 63% of Americans aged 50 and older said that it was essential.)*
Write an essay that discusses the principles and values underlying democracy and the reasons for their weaker support among young Americans. Essays may address this theme in different ways and from different perspectives, exploring such questions as why have many younger Americans lost faith in democracy? Are the principles and values of American liberal democracy relevant to solving the most pressing social issues for younger generations? Or an impediment to them? Are other forms of government better suited for the 21st century? What would they be? What values would they reflect? What are the implications for America’s democratic future? Can support for the principles and values of liberal democracy be regained? If so, how? If not, why not?
All enrolled students are eligible for this award. Essays must be submitted by midnight, February 15.
Rules and Judging
The Gund Award competition is open to any currently enrolled Kenyon student who has not previously won this contest. Essay writers may not seek assistance from parents, professors, or off-campus mentors.
A committee of faculty selects the winning essay, which must show a clear understanding of the American constitutional republic, make a sophisticated, well-supported, and well-reasoned argument, and exhibit eloquence and care in composition. Typically, one award is made annually, but if no submission meets the caliber expected for this substantial prize, the committee retains the prerogative not to make an award.
The judges look for essays that are analytical, original, focused, well informed and skillfully composed. Writers should avoid platitudes, abstractions, partisanship, polemics, or speculation. The essay should be current, yet have enduring value. While not a research paper, the essay should be composed in a formal third-person style and follow standard procedures for scholarly documentation. A previously written course paper could well serve as a starting point for the essay, with revisions made to address this prompt.
The essay should have between 1,000 and 1,500 elegantly composed words and include a title. Your name should not appear on any page. Direct quotations from other sources should be kept to an absolute minimum. Ideas and data from other sources must be cited properly. Essays must conform to Kenyon’s policies regarding academic integrity and will be screened through Turnitin.com.
Essays should be submitted by email as an Microsoft Word attachment with no identifying information. The message subject line should be: "Gund Essay — your first and last name."
Email your essay to email@example.com by midnight, February 15, 2022.
The George Gund Prize was created in 1952 by George Gund Honorary degree of 1950, longtime trustee of the College, chair of the Finance Committee, father of Graham Gund, '63 and former chair of the Cleveland Trust Company.
* See Q. 250 in Online Data Analysis, World Values Survey. This is not necessarily a new trend. In 1999, in a differently worded question in the World Values Survey, younger Americans also showed weaker absolute support for democracy than older Americans. In other longstanding democracies, younger citizens also tend to have a lower absolute commitment to democracy than older citizens, but young adults surveyed in Argentina, France, Italy, and Norway, among other countries, were not nearly as skeptical about democracy’s importance as young Americans were in the latest World Values Survey.