The National Liberty Museum honors high school finalists of nationwide Selma speech & essay contest through red carpet awards ceremony on 4/21

Teen Winners Edan Armas, Evan Lehmann, and Ifeoma White-Thorpe Brought to Philadelphia to Learn Who Will Take Home $5,000 Grand Prize. Event to Include Philadelphia City Representative Desiree Peterkin-Bell; Former Pennsylvania Senator and Original Selma Marcher Harris Wofford; Performance of “Glory” by Girard College’s Student Choir and Band; Special Messages from the Cast of SELMA

What:     The National Liberty Museum (NLM) will host the culminating event of the 2015 Selma Speech & Essay Contest, honoring the top three student finalists who were chosen from close to 800 student submissions, with a red carpet awards ceremony.  On April 21, 2015, local and national leaders, representatives from Paramount, John Templeton Foundation and the NLM, parents, teachers, and friends will come together to celebrate the tremendous achievements of the three winning studentsEdan Armas from Lake Park High School in Roselle, Ill; Evan Lehmann from Parkway North H.S. in St. Louis, MO; and Ifeoma White-Thorpe from Morris Hills High School in Rockaway, N.J. 


While each of these students knows they are one of the top three winners, they do not yet know in which order they have placed and what prize they have ultimately won. The NLM is thrilled to host an exciting awards ceremony emceed by KYW 1060’s Cherri Greg, where the students will learn who will take home 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes of $5,000, $2,500, and $1,000. Highlights of the event will include:


  • The three winning students arriving together, stepping out for pictures with guests on the NLM red carpet on the front steps leading to the welcome gallery.
  • Girard College Band and Choir performing Glory
  • KYW community affairs reporter, Cherri Greg, emceeing the event
  • Former Senator Harris Wofford, speaking about his experience as an original Selma marcher and honoring students
  • NLM CEO Gwen Borowsky and Cherri Gregg presenting 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes to winners
  • Philadelphia City Representative, Desiree Peterkin-Bell, reading an official “Voices of Liberty Day proclamation.”
  • Remarks from Jim Pitofsky from the Templeton Foundation
  • Remarks from Bob Buchi, Head of Home Entertainment Division at Paramount
  • Remarks from NLM Board President Tom Caramanico

When:    | April 21, 2015| 10:30 a.m. guests gather at front steps of NLM welcome gallery|  11:00 a.m. program start time| 11:45 a.m. press tours in new Selma exhibit on 3rd floor| 12:00PM lunch and remarks by the John Templeton Foundation and Paramount Pictures


Where:  The National Liberty Museum | 321 Chestnut St | Philadelphia, PA

Online via live stream at

Event hosted in NLM Welcome to Liberty Gallery | Press tours available of the new Selma Speech &  Essay Contest Exhibit on Museum’s 3rd floor (unveiled that day)



  • Cherri Gregg, KYW Newsradio 1060, CBS3 Eyewitness, event emcee
  • Desiree Peterkin-Bell, Philadelphia City Representative
  • Harris Wofford, Former Pennsylvania Senator and original Selma marcher
  • Bob Buchi, Head of Home Entertainment Division at Paramount
  • Jim Pitofsky, Managing Director of Strategic Alliances at the John Templeton Foundation
  • Gwen Borowsky, NLM CEO
  • Tom Caramanico, NLM Board Chair


Winning Students being honored at the April 21st Award Ceremony:

Edan Armas
Grade 12, Lake Park High School
Roselle, Ill.
Video Essay:                                                      Written Essay:
“When my dad showed me the yellowed pages of a newspaper exhibiting his old activism efforts in California, my eyes strayed to one single phrase: “El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido.” A united people will never be defeated…”

Evan Lehmann
Grade 12, Parkway North H.S.
St. Louis, MO.
Video Essay:                                                Written Essay:
“I live in St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis is not just the Gateway Arch; it’s crumbling shopping centers, food deserts, and unaccredited schools, too. For this reason, St. Louis is often characterized by its segregation, disparity, and inequality…”

Ifeoma White-Thorpe
Grade 10, Morris Hills High School
Rockaway, N.J.
Video Essay:                                        Written Essay:
“Tick tock. Time is ticking. How many years do I have left to make a change? To not just be a soul moving past, to not just be a reflection in glass? What if the change I make is minimal, does that mean it doesn’t count…”


Why:      The NLM Selma Speech & Essay Contest, was a national competition, inspired by the film SELMA, inviting high school students around the country to join together in exercising their power of words. The contest was open from December 2014 through February 2015, and marked the 50th Anniversary of the Selma March. At the conclusion of the submission period, the museum received 785 entries from students of all different backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions from across the U.S., including 43 States and Washington, D.C., as well as the Virgin Islands, Guam, and military bases abroad. The top 12 finalists were chosen by an impressive judging panel including: Common; Dr. Marvin W. Berkowitz; Xavier de Souza Briggs; Van Jones; Shiza Shahid; and Douglas O. Tozour. 

To enter the contest, students were asked to watch the film SELMA and then submit a 500-700 word speech and video responding to the following prompt: “The movie SELMA tells the story of how Martin Luther King, Jr. and others peacefully protested to advance voting rights. What do you think needs to be done today to protect individual freedom and self-determination? What are you doing or will do to peacefully advance those rights?”.

The contest was made possible through a grant from the John Templeton Foundation and in-kind support of Paramount Pictures. To find out more about the contest and the rest of the finalists, visit

About the National Liberty Museum

The National Liberty Museum (NLM), located in historic Philadelphia, is the only museum in the country dedicated to advancing liberty by fostering strong character and civic engagement. Since its founding in the year 2000, the NLM has brought liberty to life through exciting exhibits, its interactive web platform of curricular activities and the school-based Young Heroes Club program, which teaches students to be the change they want to see in the world. The Selma Speech & Essay Contest is funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation and aims to inspire students to think about and appreciate their Constitutional rights, the preciousness of our freedoms, and how contributing to our democracy is the responsibility of all US citizens. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” When the John Templeton Foundation was seeking the most ideal partner to host the Selma Contest, they found their counterpart in the National Liberty Museum, which works every day to show the world that civic engagement, grounded in strong character, enables liberty to flourish. And that each of us can be a hero of liberty. Because, where liberty lives, people live better.

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