L-R: Luci Baines Johnson, Emily White, Pamela Patton (Emily’s mother), Martin Russell (teacher, Richardson High School), Larry Temple (Chairman, LBJ Foundation). LBJ Library photo by Chris Caselli

LBJ Foundation Announces 2015 Student Essay Contest Winners

Jul 20, 2015

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965

This right to vote is the basic right without which all others are meaningless.
- President Lyndon Johnson

Download high resolution photo | Read the winning essay by Emily White

CONTACT: Anne Wheeler
LBJ Presidential Library
[email protected]
(512) 721-0216

AUSTIN, Texas – In the 2015 "Voting Rights Today" essay contest, the LBJ Foundation has awarded first place to Emily White, a senior at Richardson High School, and second place to Edward Plaut, a senior at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy in Austin. As first place winner, White was awarded $2,500 and travel expenses which President Johnson’s daughter, Luci Baines Johnson, presented to her at a special ceremony at the LBJ Presidential Library on May 21.
White's sponsoring teacher, Martin Russell, received a cash prize of $1,000 and travel expenses to attend the award event. As second-place winner, Plaut received a cash prize of $1,000. The competition was open to all 12th grade Texas students attending public, private, charter, parochial, and home schools. Topics were: how voting rights remains an enduring issue in society and one aspect of the Voting Rights Act that impacts their life today. 

White chose as her essay subject "The Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Its Continuing Importance." Researching historical materials for her work left a profound impact on White. "Not so long ago a lot of my peers would have been denied the right to vote based on racial discrimination. We take that right for granted these days. Voting is one of the most important ways people my age can participate in our government."

The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 as a result of the widespread disenfranchisement of countless Americans who were denied the right to vote based on their race, gender, or class. The act guarantees the freedom and protection of every citizen's fundamental right to vote. Because of his strong personal beliefs that every American should have an equal opportunity to succeed and have a voice in government, President Lyndon Johnson used the full weight of his political power to push the Voting Rights Act through Congress. As a result of this momentous law, there have been several U. S. Supreme Court cases that both strengthened and weakened the Voting Rights Act.

"As we continue to debate universal equality, people of all ages, genders, classes, and race are impacted." said Larry Temple, chairman of the LBJ Foundation Board of Directors. "We hope that this contest inspired students to critically discuss the importance of equal rights and opportunities for all Americans."

The contest was co-sponsored by the LBJ Presidential Library, The University of Texas at Austin College of Education/Social Studies Program, and the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

About the LBJ Foundation:
The Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports the LBJ Presidential Library and the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. Through the fundraising efforts of its Board of Trustees, the Foundation provides support to the Library that enhances quality programming, expands educational outreach and exhibits, and administers grants for researchers and scholars.