International Policy Center Home Page

Ford50 essay contest

Attention all Ford School students – outgoing, current, and incoming!


Enter the Ford50 writing contest for a cash prize!

Challenge: Please draft an original essay of your own creation (750-900 words) on the relevance of Gerald R. Ford in today's politics, based on ONE (1) of the following prompts:

  • What is the relevance of Ford’s pardon of President Richard Nixon after his resignation, especially in this age of seeming impunity? Some see it as a betrayal, some as a great act of patriotism, and some are in between.
  • When Gerald R. Ford took the oath of office on August 9, 1974, he declared, “I assume the Presidency under extraordinary circumstances…. This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts.” Can you compare the “extraordinary circumstances” of August 1974 to this year’s election?
  • Upon receiving the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award on May 21, 2001, Ford remarked, “...The ultimate test of leadership is not the polls you take, but the risks you take. In the short run, some risks prove overwhelming. Political courage can be self-defeating. But the greatest defeat of all would be to live without courage, for that would hardly be living at all.” How would you describe political courage in today’s context?
  • Ford described his philosophy as "a moderate in domestic affairs, an internationalist in foreign affairs, and a conservative in fiscal policy." How would a politician with that philosophy fare in 2024?

Prize: Submitted essays will be judged, and three prizes will be awarded: $1,000 for first place; $500 for second; and $250 for third. In addition, all three prize winners may have an opportunity to meet members of the Ford family, and the first place winner will receive tickets to the U-M football game on Homecoming weekend, September 13-15. The full value of first prize is estimated at $1,150.

The first-place winning essay will be featured in the Ford School's magazine, State & Hill, and also published in the Ford Presidential Foundation newsletter.

Eligibility: All incoming, current, or May 2024 graduating students of the Ford School are eligible to submit an essay. The entry must be original, of the entrant's own creation or initiation. The use of AI tools is explicitly prohibited. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

**Please let us know if you are planning to submit an essay so we can stay in touch and share resources about Gerald Ford. Email us at [email protected].

Submission: Send your essay in PDF form to [email protected] by noon, August 9, 2024, exactly 50 years after Gerald R. Ford took the oath of office.

Judging: Based on multiple criteria, the winning entries will be chosen by a panel of faculty, staff, and/or external judges—determined by the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean Celeste Watkins-Hayes. The judges’ decisions are final.

Notification: Winners will be notified by email or phone in early September. The Ford School will post the winning entries online. All prizes may be subject to taxes. To claim the prize, the winner may need to provide additional information for tax purposes.

Copyright Authorization: You may only submit an essay that you wrote.  By submitting your essay(s) for inclusion in this contest, you, hereby, authorize the Regents of the University of Michigan to use, reproduce, distribute, perform, display, or prepare derivative works from your essay for a variety of non-profit purposes, including but not limited to, use in the Ford School’s and the Ford Foundation’s publications.

Sponsor: The sponsor of the contest is the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, 735 South State St., Ann Arbor, MI, 48109.