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Announcing the Second Free Press Essay Contest

Calling all older (and wiser) readers! We want to hear from you.

By The Free Press

October 29, 2023

Writing in The Free Press recently, David Von Drehle reflected on his “remarkable” 109-year-old friend Charlie: “I’ve come to see that he was more than a living history lesson, and more than just the winner of a genetic Powerball. He was a case study in how to thrive through any span of years, short or long.” 

The essay really struck a chord—and left us hungry for more wisdom from our older readers. 

Around the same time that we ran David’s piece, we published the best entries to our high school essay contest. We were stunned by the outcome of that competition: more than 400 teenagers responded; the winning entries were talked about in the pages of The New York Times; professors asked to be put in touch with the authors. 

Most importantly, their essays resonated with you. Many of you wrote to thank us for giving you hope for the future and providing insight into the lives of American teenagers. 

The success of that contest, and the positive response to David’s piece sharing his neighbor’s wisdom, got us thinking: Why not run another essay contest, this time for an older generation? 

And so that’s what we’re doing. 

Today, we are opening the floor to our elders. As the holiday season approaches, we invite you to reflect on your own life lessons. 

Here’s what we’re looking for: Tell us a story about an event that shaped your life and helped give you wisdom or a fresh perspective. It could be a tragedy or a triumph—or something that seemed small at the time but ended up being pivotal to the rest of your life.

In short, we want to hear from a life well-lived about what makes life worth living. 

Here are the rules: 

This essay contest is for the truly wise, not just those eligible for Social Security. Entrants must be 70 years or older. 

Sage wisdom should be succinct. Please keep your entries under 2,000 words. 

Submissions are due November 20. 

Winners will receive a lifetime subscription to The Free Press, Free Press merchandise, and a stack of Free Press-approved books. 

Please submit your entry using this form.