Justin Crosby, the Yale essay contest first place winner accepts his award.

Meet and Read our 2023 Essay Contest Winners

The Buckley Institute is pleased to recognize the winners of our annual essay contests for Yale undergraduates and for U.S. high school students. The six winning essayists were announced at the Buckley Institute’s 13th Annual Conference on December 1 in New Haven. The first, second, and third place winners received $1,000, $500, and $250 respectively, and invitations to the annual conference. 

Yale undergraduate winners: 

  • 1st place: Justin Crosby ’25
  • 2nd place: Miguel von Fedak ’24
  • 3rd place: Cole Black ’25

High school winners:

  • 1st place: Evan Doerr, Orchard Park High School, Orchard Park, NY
  • 2nd place: Benjamin Cai, Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy, Austin, Texas
  • 3rd place: Shelby Tyler, Gallatin High School, Bozeman, Montana

Below are some highlights from the contest-winning submissions to demonstrate the high quality of the essay contest submissions.
Here are some excerpts from Yale winners:

First Place, Justin Crosby ’25: “America is indeed ‘on a path to decay,’ but this is a pronouncement, not a prophecy. We can alter our trajectory by taking responsibility for our condition; to wait for top-down action would be woefully inadequate. Movements and sweeping change begin with the courage of one to take a stance. Let us find, and exercise, that courage within. We need not wait for all society to reject comfort to reject it ourselves.”
Second Place, Miguel von Fedak ’24: “If one takes the extreme position–that a desire for comfort and convenience structures all human behavior–then the claim that comfort is debauchery becomes completely ludicrous. The United States, under this paradigm, functions well explicitly because it accepts and affirms the reality of human nature. Material wealth is not a source of decay nor a symptom of it.”
Third Place, Cole Black ’25: “Comfort itself is not inherently a bad thing: we should enjoy periods of rest, relaxation, and satisfaction, especially after overcoming hardships. But comfort divorced from any effort to overcome, comfort constantly available and unconsciously clung to, causes us to feel numb, listless, and unhappy.”

And from our high school contest winners:

First Place, Evan Doerr: “As the logical extreme reveals, receiving without effort ruins the desired. When Americans demand satisfaction without strenuous effort, neither is achieved, and man is unfulfilled.”
Second Place, Benjamin Cai: “Each individual must reevaluate their motivations, their weaknesses, and their valuations. Only then, when we can all resist the urge to buy, the urge of a discount, the urge of ‘free’, will America have regained her intellectualism and cast off her greatest shackle, freeing herself from eternal decay.”
Third Place, Shelby Tyler: “America’s education system is in a state of peril, because it ‘ministers to desire.’ Teachers and students alike pursue the most comfortable course of action and fail to see the detrimental consequences of absorption in ease.”

Check out our essay contest page for more information.