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Historical Society Looking for Essay Writers

The U.S. Capitol Historical Society plans to crown an “Honorary Hill Historian” through an essay contest to accompany the seventh annual Brown Bag Lunch Series.

Congressional staff who want to participate in the contest must answer the question “What event related to the health of an American political leader has had the most significant impact on a group of people or the nation?” in fewer than 500 words.

The winner of the contest will receive a desk sculpture of the Capitol carved from the marble removed from the House steps during the East Front renovation. Each staff member from the winner’s office will receive from the society a 2003 holiday ornament, which also includes pieces of the original House marble.

Society spokeswoman Felicia Bell said the society hopes to involve the public in Capitol Hill history. In a statement, the society suggested such research-instigating essay ideas as “the effect of President Kennedy’s assassination on the direction of the nation, the effect of President Reagan’s battle with Alzheimer’s on the public’s awareness of the disease, and Sen. Charles Sumner’s protracted recovery from the caning in the Senate Chamber in 1956.”

The lunch series, “Medical Histories of American Political Leaders: The Impact of Health and Healthcare on American History,” takes place each Wednesday in August.

The public is invited to Ketchum Hall in the Veterans of Foreign Wars building, 200 Maryland Ave. NE, to hear presentations by Robert Laureno, chairman of the Department of Neurology at the Washington Hospital Center, and David Curfman, president-elect of the Washington Academy of Neurosurgery.

The Aug. 6 topic will be “General George Washington: A Man of Many Talents, Many Illnesses, and a Medical Debate that Lingered.” The series will continue with “The Assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy: An Interval of a Century but the Same Medical Confusion” and “Stroke and the Presidency.”

Ronald Sarasin, president of the society, said in a statement, “The health of a President or other political leader captivates the public. The President’s annual physical almost certainly receives media coverage each year. We find the fascination with the health of elected officials is more than a curiosity, but a realization that it can change the course of history.”

Essays will be accepted via e-mail at until Aug. 29. Contact Felicia Bell at (202) 543-8919 ext. 31 for further details.

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