RI Eighth Grade Gandhi Essay Contest

For a decade Center hosted the RI Eight Grade Gandhi Essay Contest to encourage students to celebrate, think critically about, and personally connect with the life teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. Thank you to all those teachers and students who participated and helped to spread awareness of nonviolent and peaceful alternatives to conflicts–especially in our local and global communities today.

We encourage educators in the state to continue the tradition of encouraging nonviolent peacemakers in their schools, using essay prompts from past contests:

Essay prompts


Most of us know that Gandhi was a moral and political leader, a nonviolent activist, a humanist, and a pacifist. However, few think of Gandhi as an environmentalist. Yet, he was, as were many of his followers. It is quite amazing that he spoke of environmental problems over a hundred years ago, illustrating his insight and farsightedness. Today, Gandhi’s perceptiveness is even more relevant as we become aware of the global environmental crisis. Write a 750 word essay focused on the following three directions:

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every person’s needs, but not every person’s greed.”

  1. Explain what you think Gandhi meant by the above quote.
  2. Reflect about what the quote means to you personally and to the global climate crisis.
  3. Describe examples of how Gandhi’s ideas could be applied to your school or community.


“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony” – Gandhi

  1. Explain what Gandhi’s quote means to you personally.
  2. Discuss how Gandhi’s definition of happiness can promote peace and nonviolence today.
  3. Describe some personal examples of when your thoughts, beliefs, words, and actions were in honest agreement.


Mahatma Gandhi was a crucial advocate for helping and serving others. He led his life through chosen paths of nonviolence, spirituality, honesty, discipline, and loyalty. A story is told about when Gandhi’s train was exiting a station, a European reporter eagerly approached his window, asking, “Do you have a message I can take back to my people?” As it was Gandhi’s day of silence, he did not reply. Instead, he passed a scrap piece of paper back to reporter containing these scrawled words:

“My life is my message.”

Write a personal essay in which you:

  1. Explain what this quote means to you.
  2. If your own life were your message, what would that message say?
  3. Discuss how you think your generation can include Gandhi’s ideas of truth, nonviolence, and honesty in your school and community to create a positive message of peace.

General essay guidelines

  • Format: Personal Essay.

Essays should address the prompt in a well-written, thoughtful, and memorable way. Ideas should be developed and clearly organized, using effective and grammatically correct language.

The contest was an interdisciplinary collaboration between the URI Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies, the University Honors Program, the URI School of Education, and the URI Writing Program.