An Evening With Elie Wiesel

On October 22, 2015, LRN and the Elie Wiesel Foundation honored this year’s winners of the Prize in Ethics Essay Contest with an intimate reception at our New York office.

This annual competition, held since 1989 by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, challenges college students across the U.S. to submit essays on the urgent ethical issues that confront us in today’s complex world. Since Medium is a community of writers, if anyone reading this is a college Junior or Senior, consider entering the 2016 contest, which closes on 12/14/15.

As two organizations with a deeply connected ethos — to help people around the world do the right thing — we’ve been the sponsor of this prize since we formed our partnership in 2008.

We’re excited to share clips from the evening, along with the winning essays, which we hope will inspire you and touch your heart.

Before we introduce the three winners, we want to share some of the opening remarks from our President Jean-Marc Levy and CEO Dov Seidman, along with Professor Elie Wiesel’s full speech from the event.

Jean-Marc Levy (L) and Dov Seidman (R)
“If I have a wish for everyone here tonight, it is that after you meet the young men and women who you will be meeting, you leave this evening as inspired and hopeful as I did after meeting last year’s honorees.” — Jean-Marc Levy, President
“We’re here to underscore the importance of having a good heart. There’s a Talmudic expression that words from the heart enter the heart. Our heart is where our values, and our beliefs, and our morality and sense of ethics live. What an honor it is, then, for us to gather as a community, so that we can pause and reconnect with what matters most.” — Dov Seidman, CEO

The 9-minute video below is Professor Wiesel’s full speech from the ceremony, which is worth every second of your time.

Now, meet the winners of the 2015 Prize in Ethics Essay Contest!

Dov Seidman, Andrew Mueller, Andrew King, Alexandra Stewart and Professor Elie Wiesel

First place was awarded to The Ethics of Transcendence by Alexandra Stewart, which deals with a moral dilemma she faced in high school, struggling with the ethical differences between cultures upon discovering one of her best friends was the victim of sexual abuse.

Second place was awarded to The Ethics of Giving: Lessons from the Ship and the City by Andrew Mueller, a midshipman in the United States Merchant Marine Academy who witnessed the ugliness and injustice of the world first-hand while spending 129 days at sea visiting ports in Spain, Egypt, Djibouti, Sri Lanka, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

Third place was awarded to Humans, Animals and the Kingdom of Ends by Andrew King, who blends philosophical analysis with lyric essay to examine the morality of the unequal relationship between humans and animals.

Magogodi Makhene, who won first place in 2007, was also present for the event and spent a few minutes discussing how her life, and writing, have changed since winning the award.

We want to leave you with the final words of Professor Wiesel’s speech to conclude our reflection on this beautiful event.

“…I am a teacher, but I am a learner. We are still learning. Now this is really what you are here for. You wouldn’t be here unless you also share my passion for learning; from each other, with one another. So therefore my wish, and Marion’s wish, to all of you, is continue. Just continue. Don’t stop. Oh there were moments in my life I could’ve stopped, I imagine. I never stopped. There were always more questions challenging me, more books to read, more poems to admire, and more reasons to look at human kind with a smile rather than with tears. Smiling is still a gift that we can share, to each other, for one another, with one another.” — Professor Elie Wiesel