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William O. Douglas Award

Essay Contest

The Yakima Valley Museum has create a new award named for one of the Northwest’s most famous and accomplished individuals,  Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.

The first awardee to be honored is


former US Secretary of the Interior from 2013 to 2017

The award banquet is to be held in Yakima

on Saturday, August 13, 2022. 


Along with the award, the Museum elected to sponsor two essay competitions, one for area college students and one for high school students about an aspect of Douglas’s legacy.


Whitman College, Central Washington University Douglas Honors College, Heritage University, Pacific Northwest University, Yakima Valley College, Yakima Public Schools, and Educational Service District 105.


Schools Competition: open to all high school students in grades nine through 12 attending public, private, parochial, or home schools in Educational Service District 105. This includes seniors who graduated this year.

College Competition: open to students of Whitman College, Heritage University, Pacific Northwest University, Yakima Valley College and the Douglas Honors College at Central Washington University.


All students must list the name of a nominating teacher or professor on the registration form. The role of a nominating teacher is to provide students with guidance during the writing of their essay. The essay contest winners, their parents and their nominating teacher will be invited to receive awards at the award banquet on August 13, 2022 in Yakima. Nominating teachers can be former or current teachers.

In very few cases, there may be an exception if an interested student is unable to obtain a teacher from their school or college to be their nominating teacher. In this case the student should contact the Museum to receive further assistance.

Decisions of the Yakima Valley Museum are final. Winners will be notified by email and via telephone by August 10, 2022. All participants will receive a letter notifying them of the winners along with a Certificate of Participation by the end of September. By entering, contestants agree that the essay will become the property of the Yakima Valley Museum. The Museum reserves the right to print and display the essays and photographs of the contest winners.


William O. Douglas used his stature and talents to present the case for conservation. He passionately and eloquently engaged the public and pressed them to defend our national heritage against the disfigurement of natural beauty, pollution of our air and water, and the decimation of wildlife. Stewardship of the natural world was more than a pleasing diversion for Justice Douglas.  He considered wild places a necessary ingredient for a healthy democracy and the inheritance for future generations. As he stated in his autobiography:

"I hope that before it is too late they will develop a reverence for our rich soils, pure waters, rolling grass country, high mountains, and mysterious estuaries. I hope that they will put their arms around this part of the wondrous planet, love it, care for it, and treat it as they would a precious and delicate child." (Go East Young Man, 1974)



Choose one of the following -

1) What is your relationship to land and its inhabitants? What about public lands? Should public lands be preserved for human use or is there some land that should be kept wild and separate from humans? How should people benefit from public lands?

2) What are some social justice implications of man-made climate change? What are some possible actions or policies that can be taken at the tribal, local, state, regional, or national level to address climate change's impact on social justice? 

3) Describe the importance of outdoor education and environmental learning. Identify some valuable environmental learning experiences you have had personally and explain why they were valuable. How should schools and colleges expand and improve these kinds of learning experiences for students? 


Essays must be between 800 and 1,000 words, not including citations and bibliography. Applicants must use at least five varied sources such as government documents, letters, newspaper articles, books, and/or personal interviews.  Submissions with fewer than five listed sources will be disqualified. All participants must cite sources they used to research their topic throughout their essay. Please use parenthetical citations within the text. Essays must include a bibliography. Accepted formats include APA, MLA, or Turabian.  All submissions must adhere to contest requirements. Essays must be the original work of the student. 

Registration Forms must be downloaded from this page. Forms must be completed and signed by both the student and their nominating teacher and attached to the essay submission.


All entries must include a completed registration form and be submitted or postmarked by 11:59 p.m. on July 1, 2022 to be eligible for judging.  Students have the choice of either submitting their essay online using the button below (preferred), mailing their essay to Essay Contest, Yakima Valley Museum, 2105 Tieton Drive, Yakima 98902 or emailing it to The Yakima Valley Museum is not responsible for lost, late, illegible, or incomplete submissions.



School Competition

$1,000    1st Place

$750       2nd Place

$500        3rd Place


College Competition

$1,000    1st Place

$750       2nd Place

$500        3rd Place

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