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 Prompt for the 23rd Annual Ethics Essay Contest

Sponsored by The Williams Institute for Ethics and Management (TWI)

in Partnership with the ASU Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics

The Williams Institute believes ethics is ultimately about people and relationships. This fall, we will be electing a new President and both presidential candidates will stand behind issues that they feel is most important for the future of America. With TWI’s view on ethics in mind, this year’s essay topic asks you to choose an ethical issue facing America and show how it affects people around us and what changes need to take place in order for these ethical issues to be resolved.

Your essay will be your suggestion to the President about an issue you feel our county needs to address and why.


“Dear President Elect, may I suggest…”

Several times a year, the Gallup organization conducts a poll asking citizens what they believe is the most important issue facing this country today in an open-ended format. The table in this contest announcement provides some of the more recent responses. These general responses raise questions about the ethical considerations associated with these issues and how we can best address these issues. Your essay will be based on your own answer to the most important issue facing this country and the ethical considerations associated with your response, your explanation of the issue to our newly inaugurated President (including supporting ethical arguments), and your suggestion for addressing your chosen issue.

Each student must create an essay that answers ALL of the following questions:

  • Choose one issue you believe to be the most important facing our country today. (orange font or highlight)
  • Describe the related ethical consideration you associate with your chosen issue (not necessarily from the table included in this contest announcement) and explain in sufficient detail why you feel this ethical consideration is so important and needs to be resolved. (bright green font or highlight)
  • Provide evidence of the importance of this issue to the future of our country. (turquoise font or highlight)
  • Develop a coherent suggestion to resolve the issue you have chosen and support your suggested resolution from a moral/ethical perspective. (pink font or highlight)
  • Discuss what action you, personally, can do now and in the future to contribute to resolving your chosen issue.
    (red font or highlight)

You may answer these questions in any order that allows your essay to flow smoothly, but, to be considered for the award, you MUST include answers to ALL of the underlined points above.

Here are some examples of topics for discussion.  You are not limited to these topics.

July 2016 Gallup Poll Results for the Most Important Issue Facing the Country

Citizen Rankings

Examples of Possible Related Ethical Considerations

Race relations/racism


Equal treatment under the law


Dissatisfaction with government


Ethical responsibility of leaders

Level of government intervention

Economy in general


Access to living wage

Role of government in economic downturn



Access to adequate employment


Ethical/moral decline


Ethical decline perceived or real?

Exclusion of citizen groups not considered “mainstream”

National Security


Surveillance, privacy

Civil liberties compromised

Immigration/ undocumented


Support for citizens’ rights

Human rights issues



Profiling of immigrants

Personal and privacy rights

Guns/Gun control


2nd amendment rights

Public safety

Elections/Election reform


Influence of money

Loss of trust in elected officials



Healthcare as a right or privilege

47 million citizens without health insurance

Gap between rich and poor


Effects on older Americans

Living wage



Clean resources

Loss of jobs

High cost of living


Effects on older Americans

Widening gap between rich and poor


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