Loyola University Maryland


Essay Contest for Just Mercy

Front book cover of Bryan's Stevenson's Just Mercy

Answer one of the two prompts below using only the Common Text and your intellect. That is, no outside resources are needed in this exercise in reflection and discernment. The goal is original thought inspired by careful reading. Your essay should be no longer than 5 double-spaced, typed pages.

To be eligible, please submit an original essay based on the prompt below to Michael Puma, Co-Director of Messina at messina@loyola.edu no later than midnight on August 17, 2017. Three prizes of $350 each will be awarded.  We will celebrate the winners during Fall Welcome Weekend at the Common Text Convocation on September 1, 2017. 

Essay Contest Prompts (choose either A or B): 

  • Essay A
    Stevenson writes, “Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done (p. 18).” Imagine if others judged you on the worst thing you have ever done. In what ways does the current criminal justice system in America judge people based on their worst? How might our criminal justice system (sentencing, incarceration, release) encourage and support people to be their best?
  • Essay B
    Just Mercy begins with information about Bryan Stevenson growing up poor in a racially segregated community in Delaware. He remembers his grandmother telling him, “You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance, Bryan. You have to get close” (14). How does Stevenson get close to the incarcerated people he is helping? Be able to cite specific examples of both success and failure in doing so as well as the toll “getting close” takes on him. How does getting close to Walter McMillian affect Stevenson’s life? How does “getting close” relate to Loyola’s Core Values and Ignatian Citizenship? 


Contact the Messina Office at 410-617-2669 or visit www.loyola.edu/Messina for a list of academic and support services available to Loyola students, including helping you make the transition to campus and college life.

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