About the City Club

The City Club of Cleveland is one of the nation's great free speech forums. A product of the Progressive Era, we were founded in 1912 and are one of the nation's oldest continuous independent free speech forums, renowned for our tradition of debate and discussion. For more than a hundred years, all of our speakers—from sitting presidents to community activists—have answered unfiltered, unrehearsed questions directly from the audience. 

Thank you for participating in the 2020 Hope and Stanley Adelstein Free Speech Essay Contest!

Please read all details below regarding the essay prompt and eligibility. For details on judging, please click below for the detailed rubric.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Communications and Marketing Manager, Julia Wang at jwang@cityclub.org. Good luck!


The more we use technology, the more information we provide to the people and organizations that own that technology. Some of that information may be willingly provided, while some of that information is a by-product of interacting with that technology – such as GPS tracking while using Google Maps or clicking on an advertisement on instagram.

As technology rapidly grows and becomes more integrated with our lives, data that may have been considered private or personal in the past, is now bought, sold, or traded by marketers, political campaigns, and other stakeholders. Many of them use algorithms and artificial intelligence to target and craft the messages they send—messages which may be legitimate and helpful, or false and harmful, or anywhere in between. 

What effect does this tradeoff have on freedom of speech and democracy? And what, if anything, should be done about it?

DEADLINE : March 9, 2020


All high school students (9-12th grade) in public, private, parochial, charter, and home schools in Northeast Ohio 


  • Essays will be judged on their clarity, content, originality, and significance, and by responding to the correct question and required components
  • Please use 3 to 5 articles from reliable, valid sources in your essay.
  • During the judging process, each entry is assigned a number. Essays are blind-scored by number only; no student or school names are identified. Do not include student name or school name within the body of your essay. Failure to comply may result in disqualification.
  • All winners are invited to attend a City Club forum with a guest and the first place winners for each category are invited to read their winning essay prior to the start of the forum.
  •  Click here for a detailed rubric



11/12 Grade 

  • First Place: $1,000
  • Second Place: $750
  • Third Place: $500
  • Honorable Mention: $250

 9/10 Grade 

  • First Place: $500
  • Second Place: $250
  • Third Place: $150
  • Honorable Mention: $100

 You can view last year's winning essays here:  

The City Club of Cleveland