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Winners of the 2021 Hope and Stanley Adelstein Free Speech Essay Contest Have Been Announced!

Every year since 2013, The Hope and Stanley Adelstein Free Speech Essay Contest challenges high school students to examine the role of free speech in the 21st century. The essay contest was established by Hope and Stanley as part of the City Club’s Centennial celebration. The Adelsteins were longtime City Club members, philanthropists, and environmental activists. Stanley joined the City Club in 1941 and remained an active member until his death in 2014. Hope’s hallmark was civic involvement, and she was active in the Cleveland community until her death in 2016.

All high school students in Northeast Ohio are eligible to apply for scholarship prizes. Essays should pull from personal experience, current events, history, politics, art, anything really so long as they are backed up with evidence. Essays will be judged on their clarity, content, originality, and significance.

2021 Essay Contest Details

2021 Prompt:

The recent insurrection at the United States capitol, enabled by free speech on social media platforms, has amplified the conflict between public interest and unfettered freedom of speech in American society.

Other countries have made efforts to resolve this conflict through restricting hate speech. For example, Germany has outlawed speech that disturbs public peace. Additionally, social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter have taken new action to censor speech that may be dangerous or untrue.

Freedom of speech is a bedrock of American democracy. But the proliferation of misinformation, conspiracy theories, extremist views, and violence now being spread on social media platforms threatens the balance of free speech and democracy. If you were given the opportunity to testify before the Senate, what would you recommend be done?

Submit Your Essay Here

Eligibility and details:

  • All Northeast Ohio high school students are eligible to participate
  • There are two categories of judging – 9/10 grade and 11/12 grade
  • Essays must be 500-1,000 words
  • Please use 3 to 5 articles from reliable, valid sources in your essay.
  • Each entry is assigned a number. Essays are blind-scored by number only; no student or school names are identified. Do not include student name or school name within the body of your essay. Failure to comply may result in disqualification.
  • All first-place winners of each category are invited to read their winning essays at the start of a City Club virtual forum.
  • Deadline: Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Example sources:

See here for full scoring rubric.


11/12 Grade

  • First Place: $1,000
  • Second Place: $750
  • Third Place: $500
  • Honorable Mention: $250

9/10 Grade

  • First Place: $500
  • Second Place: $250
  • Third Place: $150
  • Honorable Mention: $100

You can view the winning essays from 2020 here: Grade 11/12 Grade 9/10

For any questions regarding the Essay Contest, please contact Tiffany France at

Essay Contest Winner

Vinay Bodapoti, 2017 Grade 11/12 Free Speech Essay Contest Winner

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