USIP/American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) 2018 National High School Essay Contest
Application Deadline: 11:59 p.m. EDT on March 15, 2018.
Topic for AFSA’s 20th Anniversary High School Essay Contest
Why Diplomacy and Peacebuilding Matter
The United States has many tools to advance and defend its foreign policy and national security interests around the world—from diplomatic approaches pursued by members of the Foreign Service, to the range of options available to the U.S. military. In countries affected by or vulnerable to violent conflict, peacebuilding tools are important additions to the national security toolkit.
In such complex environments, cooperation across agencies and approaches is challenging, but it can also blend knowledge and skills in ways that strengthen the overall effort to establish a lasting peace. On the other hand, lack of coordination can lead to duplication of effort, inefficient use of limited resources and unintended consequences.
In a 1,000-1,250-word essay, identify two cases—one you deem successful and one you deem unsuccessful—where the U.S. pursued an integrated approach to build peace in a conflict-affected country. Analyze and compare these two cases, addressing the following questions:
- What relative strengths did members of the Foreign Service and military actors bring to the table? What peacebuilding tools were employed? Ultimately, what worked or did not work in each case?
- How was each situation relevant to U.S. national security interests?
- What lessons may be drawn from these experiences for the pursuit of U.S. foreign policy more broadly?
Length: Your essay should be at least 1,000 words but should not exceed 1,250 words (word count does not apply to the list of sources). The word count must be included on the document you submit.
Content and Judging: Submissions will be judged on the quality of analysis, quality of research, and form, style and mechanics. Successful entries will answer all aspects of the prompt and demonstrate an understanding of the Foreign Service. The top five essays from each region will advance to the final round of judging that will determine the winner, runner-up, and honorable mentions. All decisions of the judges are final.
- Fill out the registration form. All fields on the online form are required, including uploading a Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) file of your original work with a title, in English which should include a comprehensive list of sources consulted. Entries must be typed, double-spaced, in 12-point Times New Roman or an equivalent font with a one-inch margin on all sides of the page.
- Teacher or Sponsor: Student registration forms must have a teacher or sponsor name. That person may review the submitted essay and act as the key contact between participants and AFSA. It is to the student’s advantage to have a coordinator review the essay to make sure it is complete, contains all the necessary forms, is free from typographical and grammatical errors, and addresses the topic.
- Do not place your last name or your school’s name on any of the pages of the essay. Only the registration form should include this information.
- Faxed submissions will not be accepted.
- Your essay will be disqualified if it does not meet the requirements or is submitted after the submission date of 11:59 p.m. EDT on March 15, 2018.
- Students whose parents are not in the Foreign Service are eligible to participate if they are in grades nine through twelve in any of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories, or if they are U.S. citizens attending high school overseas.
- Students may be attending a public, private, or parochial school.
- Entries from home-schooled students are also accepted.
- Previous first-place winners and immediate relatives of directors or staff of the AFSA, the U.S. Institute of Peace, Semester at Sea and National Student Leadership Conference are not eligible to participate. Previous honorable mention designees are eligible to enter.
- $2,500 to the writer of the winning essay, in addition to an all-expense paid trip to the nation’s capital from anywhere in the U.S. for the winner and his or her parents, and an all-expense paid educational voyage courtesy of Semester at Sea.
- Runner-up receives $1,250 and a full tuition to attend a summer session of National Student Leadership Conference’s International Diplomacy program.
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