Grand Prize Winner
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Jurors' Awards


2011 Grand Prize Winner

John Falchetta
18 years old, California

My Modest Proposal

I was seventeen years old when I decided to run for President of the United States on an anti-war, pro-peace platform. With only weeks left until my high school graduation, I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I’d spent the past year forming and working on “A Modest Proposal”, an independent anti-war movement within my school.

But for some reason, the notion of moving onward to college just didn’t seem right. I thought of countless options including joining the military – even though I’d spent my senior year fighting to end its occupation of Afghanistan. “A Modest Proposal” was my senior dissertation, which detailed the current state of affairs between the US and Afghanistan. One day before I turned seventeen, President Obama announced his escalation of 30,000 troops – and so I decided to channel my despair through activism.

For months, I tried contacting my elected officials, looking for answers and hoping for peace. Like countless other students, I felt disempowered – just as I’m sure children my age in Afghanistan feel disempowered. What could I, one person, do to combat this growing tragedy? I had so much to consider, and so little time to do it.

For as long as I can remember, I’d always been told, “the military is an option,” – and in this particular instance, I needed an option. The recruiter I spoke with promised me an education at any school I desired, and a job that suited the needs of my country. But my interest quickly diminished when I learned that I’d be serving active duty in Afghanistan – in spite of all the work I’d put into ending the war I was about to be plunged into.

For days afterward, I considered where else I could go and what else I could do. It wasn’t until almost two weeks later that I finally decided: if my elected officials weren’t going to help me, and the military was going to risk killing me, I’d have to take matters into my own hands. So I spent months doing my political homework; and on November 8, 2010, I formally announced my candidacy for President of the United States in 2012. My campaign is a reform agenda, focused on the ideals of anti-war – for voters and thinkers of all ages.

I see, in this movement, the next generation of young leaders worldwide; from Afghan peace volunteers to student protesters in London – and am reminded of Gandhi, who said, “Whatever you do may seem insignificant to you… but it is most important that you do it.”


Grand Judge: Kirsten Moller, founder and executive director of the peace and human rights organization, Global Exchange. She works towards a world without war, hunger and injustice.