Introductions: Bryan Stevenson & The Elaine Wetteraurer Writing Contest Winners

On March 28, lauded social justice lawyer and author of Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson, captivated a sold-out Benaroya Hall with his lessons in the “power of proximity” and hope. SAL Executive Director Ruth Dickey introduced Bryan as part of SAL’s 2016/17 Literary Arts Series.

This event also celebrated the winners of SAL’s annual Elaine Wetteraurer Writing Contest. Every year, Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Writers in the Schools (WITS) program holds the contest to celebrate the wisdom, creativity and heart captured in student poetry. The contest is open to students grades K-12 who attend WITS partner schools. This year, in honor of Bryan Stevenson’s incredible advocacy, students were encouraged to explore the themes of “Justice” and “Mercy.” The names of the winners and their work are included below. 


By Ruth Dickey, SAL Executive Director

Toward the end of Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson cites former Czech leader Vaclav Havel about the one thing that is essential: hope. “The kind of hope,” Stevenson expands, “that creates a willingness to position oneself in a hopeless place and be a witness, that allows one to believe in a better future, even in the face of abusive power.  That kind of hope makes one strong.”

Bryan Stevenson has dedicated his life to making concrete both this type of witness and this type of hope.  For more than three decades he has witnessed the horrors of our criminal justice system and the ways it disproportionately incarcerates and executes people of color and people who are poor, while also working tirelessly for hope and change.  He is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, which has won reversals, relief or release for over 115 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row.  His numerous honors include a MacArthur Genius Award, the National Medal of Liberty from the ACLU and being named the Public Interest Lawyer of the Year.  His beautiful book, Just Mercy, was a New York Times bestseller, was named one of the 10 best books of 2014 by Time and won the Carnegie Medal and an NAACP Image Award. Read more…