AtlanticAN ASIA MEDIA STAFFER WRITES –The second annual student Writing Prize  competition organized by The Atlantic and the College Board challenged high-school students to do a close reading of a work of art that inspires them. More than 2,000 students from 44 countries entered. Two dozen professors of composition and art history narrowed the field to 20 semifinalists, and a panel of judges from the College Board and The Atlantic made the final selection. The winner, Thanh T. Nguyen, lives in Hanoi, Vietnam, and will attend Duke University this fall.

The winning essay by the student from Vietnam appears exclusively in the September issue of The Atlantic and begins:

“Aristotle is earthly; Plato, otherworldly. The thinkers are secular, but the architecture is Christian. The greatest High Renaissance artists—Michelangelo, Leonardo, Bramante—merge with the greatest minds of ancient Greece. Light floods the fresco, the light of an age of classical-antiquity revival, of the artist-humanist, of spiritual and intellectual reconciliation. Initially, I believed The School of Athens could be understood only as the glorious rediscovery of the ancient Western tradition by Renaissance Europeans. What value has it for a Vietnamese like me, brought up in a fundamentally different time, culture, and education system? Yet closer study revealed that the painting represents an ideal of learning as universal as it is inspiring: relentless, unhindered critical inquiry that crosses physical, cultural, and disciplinary boundaries. Resonating from ancient Athens through Renaissance Italy to modern-day Hanoi, where I live, the ideal depicted in Raphael’s School salvages the hope that, despite cultural and political restrictions, love of knowledge will prevail…..

The full essay may be found at:

The staff of Asia Media International applauds The Atlantic and College Board for creating and administering this fine and valuable competition. Thanh T. Nguyen is a senior in high school in Hanoi, and he received the firts prize award of $5,000 for his entry. AMI applauds that, too! The editor of The Atlantic, one of America’s finest monthly magazines, is Mr Scott Stossel.

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