State of the Union Essay Contest Finalists Join Sanders for Roundtable Discussion

COLCHESTER, Vt., Feb. 18- U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) held a roundtable discussion this morning with finalists of his second annual State of the Union essay contest.

In the wide-ranging discussion, Sanders and the students discussed many of the themes raised in their essays including the declining middle class, growing inequality in the United States, the environment, civil liberties and the burdens of student debt.

"We need everyone, including our students, to be thinking about the challenges facing our country. That's what democracy is all about," Sanders said. "We had a great discussion this morning and I'm pleased so many of our students are giving serious thought to important issues like how we can create good-paying jobs and how we can make college more affordable."

With eight finalists, Champlain Valley Union High School had the largest number of students attending this morning's roundtable discussion. Students from Burr and Burton Academy, Milton High School, South Burlington High School, St. Johnsbury Academy, Vergennes Union High School, Winooski High School and Woodstock Union High School also were among the finalists invited to attend the roundtable discussion.

More than 300 students at 30 high schools throughout the state participated in Sanders' essay contest. The students were asked what they would say about the state of our union, if they were president. The essays were judged by a panel of five Vermont teachers.

The winner of Sanders' annual State of the Union essay contest was Jennifer Sikorski, a Winooski High School senior. In addition to the winner, 18 students were named as finalists.

Sanders earlier held a town meeting with students at the school of the winner to speak with them about the challenges facing the country. All of the essays of the finalists were entered into the Congressional Record.

Sanders announced the essay contest winner on the Senate floor shortly before President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address to Congress in late January.

This morning's roundtable discussion was held at Vermont Public Television in Colchester.  Fifteen of the 19 finalists attended.

To read the essays of the winner and the finalists, click here.

Contact: Michael Briggs (202) 224-5141