The McCarthey Family Foundation last week named winners and finalists in their Lecture Series Essay Contest, which the foundation expanded this year to include middle and high schoolers. Rowland Hall students had a strong showing on the topic of why a free press matters in a democracy: eighth-grader Arden Louchheim won the middle school division and judges named sixth-grader Aiden Gandhi, sophomore Katy Dark, and recent alumna Madeline Brague '18 finalists in their age groups.
Arden learned of her win Friday morning in the Middle School main office: "When I walked into the room all I saw were all the important people in our school: principal, assistant principal, head of school...It was pretty intimidating," she said. "But when I found out I had won I was incredibly honored, happy, and surprised, and I actually started crying."
During the night of the lecture November 10, the eighth grader will be introduced to the typically standing-room-only audience of over 600 people and collect her $1,500 cash prize. All three winning essays will be printed in the evening's program, and Arden will be the youngest person in contest history to receive this honor.
Arden said she entered, in part, because the topic intrigued her. "Writing the essay was a fun but challenging process," she said. "I learned a lot about how freedom of the press affected Japanese-American internees during World War II. This topic also hits close to home for me because my grandparents were interned."
The middle schooler encouraged fellow students to enter contests like this one. "I had never done anything like this before, but I figured I could try it," she said. "I know many kids my age who are incredibly capable writers and students who deserve a shot at something like this."
Arden said she plans to donate a portion of her prize money to the Japanese-American National Museum. The Rowmark Junior athlete said she'll also use some of the cash to help pay for her race skis, but she'll save the majority of it for college and beyond.
The foundation received a total of 406 entries from Utah students across all three age groups. "The quality of writing and thoughtfulness of the essays surpassed our expectations and confirmed our rationale for the competition," said Philip G. McCarthey, trustee of the McCarthey Family Foundation and Rowland Hall. "Even the youngest essayists reflected a keen awareness of the vital importance of the press in our country and demonstrated a genuine understanding of the historical and current political challenges facing our nation today."
Rowland Hall serves as the venue for the lecture, but that doesn't impact judges' decisions: they aren't told essayists' names or schools. Read more about the lecture and contest at rowlandhall.org/mccartheylectureseries.
Read contest coverage in this November 4 Salt Lake Tribune story.
Below is Arden's essay, unedited by Rowland Hall.
Views expressed in the following essay are those of the writer and don't necessarily represent those of Rowland Hall and its employees.
Essay question for Utah students in grades six through eight
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." —First Amendment to the United States Constitution (1791)
In an essay of 500 words, explain what the First Amendment to the United States Constitution means (1) for the press in the United States and why its freedom matters; and (2) provide examples to support your position.
Learn from the Past, Improve the Future
By Arden Louchheim, Rowland Hall eighth grader
The First Amendment to the Constitution protects the press' freedom from government censorship. That freedom is vital for American citizens to be able to make informed decisions about the world around them. Freedom of the press allows individuals to know the truth about exactly what is happening from every side of a story. A quote from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black sums up Freedom of the press very well. "The press was to serve the governed, not the governors."
Throughout U.S. history, freedom of the press has been abused such as during the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. 120,000 citizens of Japanese descent were interned during World War II just because of their ethnicity; because they looked like the enemy. During the internment, the government used the press as a way to legitimize their acts against the interned. The government mainly used newspapers to plant the idea that Japanese citizens were a danger to society and it was for the safety of the nation that they were interned. One-sided newspaper stories brainwashed readers into believing that Japanese citizens were a threat. On the other hand, newspapers produced by Japanese-Americans inside the camps were all censored to the public. The interned individuals also could not write the newspapers in Japanese, the native language to some, because they could not be easily translated by the government. The country's only Japanese-American newspaper (in Bainbridge Island, WA) was forced to shut down when its staff was relocated to camps. In the words of Takeya Mizuno, assistant professor at the University of Tokyo, press freedom inside the camps was "conditional at best".
Today, the government's attempt to control the messages from the press is similar to the control of news during World War II. Currently, the government is trying to discredit anything the press puts out that it doesn't agree with, calling it "fake news," even if it is true. The present-day administration is abusing the law of free press, which could cause history to repeat itself. Just as President Roosevelt did 75 years ago, President Trump is trying to only let citizens see one-sided news; The news that he agrees with. The current executives are promoting racism by trying to exclude people based on their race or religion. Our current executives are trying to take away citizens' trust of the press and increase the trust within themselves. Tom Ikeda, the founding director of Densho, an organization that chronicles the internment of Japanese during World War II, states, "The hateful rhetoric directed at Japanese 75 years ago is similar to what is heard today against Muslims, members of the black community and immigrants."
The internment camps of World War II show how abuse of the free press can contribute to painful mistakes, and with the current state of the government, we could be heading down that path again. This issue is especially important to me because my grandparents and their siblings were some of the internees. We must remember that our country was built upon truth so we cannot let history repeat itself.
- Diltz, Collin. "How Bainbridge Island Japanese were Registered, Forced from their Homes During World War II", Seattle Times. December 2016
- Ostergaard, Kolleen. Smart, Chris. McGuire, Tom. Lanz, Madeline. Hodson, Timothy A. "The Japanese-American Internment During World War II: A Discussion of Civil Liberties Then and Now". May 2000
- Supreme Court Case, "New York Times Co. v. United States". 1971
- Mizuno, Takeya. "Press Freedom in the Enemy's Language". October 2015
Top photo: Eighth-grader Arden Louchheim in the Middle School office after learning she'd won the essay contest for her age group. From left, McCarthey Family Foundation Trustee Philip G. McCarthey, Rowland Hall Head of School Alan Sparrow, Arden, eighth-grade English teacher Mike Roberts, and Middle School Principal Pam Smith. (Photo by Akemi Louchheim)