2023 Student Writing Contest

Go for Broke Spirit

2023-2024 Student Writing Contest Winners

Congratulations to our winners! There were over 200 entries from students across the United States. Entries went through three vigorous rounds of blind vetting by classroom teachers from across the country, Museum curators and Museum educators.

Junior Division

1st PlaceBenjamin Wu8th GradeCurtis Jr. High School - Washington
2nd PlaceDelaney Edwards7th GradeWind River Academy - Wyoming
3rd PlaceJoel Edwards9th GradeWind River Academy - Wyoming
Honorable MentionJustice Robinson8th GradeCongress Middle School - Missouri

Senior Division

1st PlaceMatthew Wang11th GradeCherry Hill High School East – New Jersey
2nd PlaceJosef Perez11th GradeOrgan Mountain High School – New Mexico
3rd PlaceIago Macknik-Conde11th GradeHome School – New York
Honorable MentionJacob Quintero11th GradeOrgan Mountain High School – New Mexico
Honorable MentionIsabella Caine11th GradeOrgan Mountain High School – New Mexico


The 2024-2025 Student Writing Contest topic will go live in mid-October and submissions will be accepted from the end of October through January 2025. We look forward to having YOU participate!

Topic Overview

According to Cornell Law School, civil liberties are:

  • Freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution (primarily from the First Amendment). They are natural rights which are inherent to each person. While they are commonly referred to as "rights," civil liberties actually operate as restraints on how the government can treat its citizens. As such, the First Amendment's language ("congress shall make no law") explicitly prohibits the government from infringing on liberties, such as the freedom of speech.
  • While certain rights can be considered both a civil right and a civil liberty, the distinction between the two lies within the source and target of the authority.
    • Civil liberties are constitutionally protected freedoms.
    • Civil rights are claims built upon legislation.
  • A violation of civil rights affords the injured party a right to legal action against the violator. For example, the freedom of religion is recognized as both a civil right and civil liberty; it is protected under the Constitution from government infringement (liberty) as well as under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from being the basis of discriminatory practices.

Approximately 33,000 Japanese Americans served in the US Armed Forces during World War II. Many of them voluntarily enlisted despite having their civil liberties infringed upon by the US government with the execution of Executive Order 9066 in 1942. This order forcibly incarcerated around 122,000 men, women and children in relocation centers in the interior of the United States.

The majority of those 33,000 served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team or as linguists with the Military Intelligence Service. The 100th/442nd remains the most decorated unit for its size and duration of service in US Army history. “Go for Broke” means risking everything to win big. This was the motto adopted by these units.

Members of the 442nd
Members of the 442nd pose for a photo while riding in a Jeep in France. Courtesy US National Archives.


Writing Prompt


Write a speech from the perspective of one of these service members speaking to a group of students today in 2023.

In it, you must:

  • Include that person’s motivation for voluntarily enlisting in the military despite the circumstances.
  • Describe any opposition to that idea (motivation) that people may have had then or may have now.
  • Discuss the legacy of this chapter of American history and how it relates to modern civil liberties.
  • Use evidence from at least three sources listed here.
  • Use information and examples from your own knowledge of US History.




Bill Manbo at Heart Mountain Relocation Center
Bill Manbo at Heart Mountain Relocation Center, Wyoming, 1943. Courtesy of Takao Bill Manbo and Eric L. Muller.


Contest Policies



The contest is open to United States students in grades 7 through 12 attending public, private, parochial, or home schools; U.S. students under the age of twenty enrolled in a high school correspondence/GED program in any of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, or the U.S. territories; and U.S. citizens attending schools overseas.


  • The contest opens on October 18, 2023 and the deadline to submit is January 29, 2024 at 11:59 PM (CST).
  • Students may submit a typed copy OR a video of themselves reciting it.
  • If typed, speeches can be no more than 750 words but must be a minimum of 500 words. It should be double spaced, have a title and be in 12-point font. It should be uploaded as a PDF.
  • If you choose to record yourself in a video, it should be between 4 and 8 minutes long. Please be mindful of background noise and your attire. Be sure to speak loudly and clearly. Please do not read; instead, speak naturally (it's okay to write and review before you record or to have talking points). It must be uploaded as a MOV, MP4 or WMV.
  • Speeches must be the original work of the student.

All entries must be submitted by 11:59pm (CST) on January 29, 2024 to be eligible for judging. The National WWII Museum is not responsible for lost, late, misdirected, damaged, illegible, or incomplete submissions.

Decisions of the NWWIIM Student Writing Contest are final. Winners will be notified by email by February 7, 2024. The winners will be posted on The National WWII Museum’s website and will also receive a certificate by the end of February 2024. Awards will be sent via direct deposit during the Spring of 2024.

By entering, you agree that your speech will become the property of The National WWII Museum and will not be returned. The National WWII Museum reserves the right to print and display the speeches names and photographs of the contest winners.

Recognition and Awards

There will be 2 categories: Junior (grades 7-9) and Senior (grades 10-12).

  • First place winners in both categories will win $750 each.
  • Second place winners in both categories will win $500 each.
  • Third place winners in both categories will win $250 each.
  • Honorable Mention in both categories will win $100 each.

Submit your speech here.

This writing contest is inspired by the special exhibit currently at The National WWII Museum. The Go for Broke Spirit: Legacy in Portraits is on display in the Joe W. and Dorothy D. Brown Foundation Special Exhibit Gallery until March 31, 2024.