Ellen Francis is a sophomore in the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University, where she is pursuing a degree in Classics with minors in History and Philosophy. Ellen is originally from Tennessee, but is enjoying life in suburban Philadelphia. She enjoys reading, swing dancing, discussing theology with her friends, and drinking sweet tea. After graduation, Ellen hopes to teach Latin or attend law school.
Madeline Peltzer is from Phoenix, Arizona and the eldest of three daughters. She is a sophomore at Hillsdale College in Michigan where she is majoring in politics and minoring in economics and journalism. A life-long political junkie, she interned on Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s reelection campaign over the past summer and for her state’s policy and legislative council in addition to working for Americans for Prosperity on their grassroots activism team. On campus, she is a reporter for the Hillsdale Collegian, the founder and president of the Hillsdale chapter of Young Women for America (a faith-based policy club that promotes a Biblical approach to the big issues of the day), and a representative on Hillsdale’s student government. She also volunteers as a cast member for the Liberty Princess Company for which she portrays Disney characters at local community events and fundraisers for underprivileged children. Madeline has won eight national essay contests including Constituting America’s high school essay contest in 2015, was First Runner-Up at Arizona’s Distinguished Young Women scholarship competition (formerly America’s Junior Miss), is a National Merit Commended Scholar, and was a member of the National Homeschool Honor Society all four years of high school. She hopes to pursue law school, intern for a Washington, D.C. think tank, and work in policy analysis, punditry, journalism, or public office. Madeline is an active member of her church, enjoys classical piano, figure skating, ballet and jazz dance, and considers herself a Disneyland enthusiast.
Watch Madeline discuss her winning work, as well as her experiences with Constituting America, here!
Best College Speech: Jonathan Ludwig, 20, was born in Ankara, Turkey, and is in the middle of his junior year at Bob Jones University in his hometown of Greenville, SC. He enjoys extra-curricular activities such as debate, mock trial, and student legislature and has held various leadership positions with those organizations. Jonathan plans to pursue a career in criminal law and hopes to become politically active in campaign leadership.
Matthew McNey, 21, was born in Columbia, MD; however, he was raised in College Park, Burtonsville and Laurel. As a product of the American Dream he was instilled with strong religious convictions, hard work and dedication. He was not born into a rich family; his was a family best characterized as middle class, a family battling with drug addiction and alcoholism. Matthew goes to school and works full time with plans to go to Harvard Law and Harvard Business School to earn a JD and MBA, and to become a corporate attorney. He has been involved in politics since he was 13. He joined the Democratic Party when he was 16, and eventually became the President of the Maryland Federation of College Democrats.
Thomas Cooke, 20, Best College Speech Winner, is originally from Hastings, Nebraska. He is beginning his junior year at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, where he is an editor for the school newspaper’s opinion section, Chair of Cornell’s College Republicans chapter, and a competitor on the Mock Trial team. His mother teaches English as a second language to elementary school children and his father is a professor of math and computer science at Hastings College. Thomas’ older brother is in pilot training at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. Thomas has been interested in writing, public speaking, and current events from a very young age and enjoys opportunities to get involved in politics at every level.
Justin Dietrich, 28, Best Grad/Law College Speech Winner, is a native of Bluffdale, Utah, but has also lived in California and Russia. He is a father of three and a second year master’s student at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. Justin is pursuing a Master of Engineering degree with an emphasis in hydraulics and water resources. He loves the field of engineering because of the practical problem-solving aspects of it. This is the same reason he is passionate about history and political theory which are crucial to first understanding, and then addressing the folly in humanity. He reveres the Constitution of the United States of America as the best formulation for preserving freedom and happiness in society. Justin loves sports (especially basketball), but admits that playing them has taken a back seat to roughhousing with his kids. He is honored to be chosen as this year’s winner and is grateful for the unwavering support of his beautiful wife, Rachel, and wonderful kids, Elayna, Bethany, and Jack.
Jewel Gilbert, 20, Best College Speech Winner, is from Easton, Pennsylvania and a Freshman at Muhlenberg College. He is extremely grateful to have had his speech chosen as the Winner of Constituting America. Jewel has three passions: To serve God, play football, and perform with Sing For America. Sing for America is a charitable group founded by the Gilbert family in 2005. Performing up to 80 performances a year, stretching from Memphis to Maine, they do it to show appreciation for the Military families sacrificing so much for us. In 2011, Sing For America evolved as an entity striving to bring light and truth to the community through the arts in many different ways. Sing For America Productions was born, and since has done 8 Broadway style musicals incorporating professional and amateur talent under the slogan “The Arts Are Color Blind.” Out of the 224 cast members involved with SFAP, half of them are minorities. Many of the actors had their very first experience on stage with us. Sing For America has been able to donate over $40,000 to help military families in need by paying rent, heating bills, food, whatever they may need. www.SingForAmerica.com.
Hannah Cooksey, 19, Best College Speech winner, lives in beautiful McMinnville, Oregon with her parents and seven siblings. She is studying to be a paralegal at Oak Brook College of Law. She loves Jesus, spending time with friends and family, cooking, playing violin and piano, teaching music lessons, and going on mission trips. Hannah was homeschooled by her mom, Kathy, who instilled in her a love of learning and conservative values. She also lived in Japan 10 years, which helped her to understand the uniqueness of the American government structure.
Amanda Tesarek, 21, Best College Speech winner, originally hails from Superior, Wisconsin but has since settled in New York City. As a senior at Columbia University, she studies Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies and is learning to speak Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, and Farsi. She is currently in the process of writing a thesis on the role of dark money in Indian and American elections, which was inspired by her experience interning with the New York City Campaign Finance Board. Amanda is a captain of the Columbia University Mock Trial team, a member of America Reads-a volunteer organization that tutors underprivileged Harlem youth-and a founding member of the Constituting America Youth Advisory Board. After graduation, she hopes to travel to a country where she can practice one of the languages she studies and/or work for a few years before ultimately attending law school.