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American Legion Post 67 to sponsor high school oratorical contest

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American Legion Post 67, Morgan, will conduct the American Legion High School Oratorical Contest again this year. On the national level, the American Legion has sponsored the High School Oratorical Contest since 1938.

Morgan High School has five contestants this year. Each contestant must give a prepared oration on some phase of the United States Constitution, giving emphasis to the duties and obligations of a citizen to his/her government.

The public is invited to attend this oratorical contest to see how some of our high school students are preparing for their futures.

Jim Nickerson, who is the local contest chairman and Post 67 commander, said, “Even though we held it last year for the first time in many years, I’m still a little nervous, especially in its planning and organization, but excited for the students because of the scholarship potential. It should be a fun and interesting evening. I also want to take this opportunity to thank in advance all those people who have volunteered to help, the judges, time keepers, tabulators, escorts and monitors. Most of them helped last year and have returned to assist again this year.”

The contest will be held in the County Auditorium on Wednesday, Jan. 11 beginning at 7 p.m. We recommend arriving early and in your seats by 6:45 so as not to be a distraction to the speakers. So come and witness just how well these students perform with their orations. It will be an educational experience for all.

William A. Kitchen, a past state department commander of Missouri, is credited with originating The American Legion’s National High School Oratorical Contest.  He experimented with the contest in a few high schools in and around Kansas City, M.., during the school year 1934-35.  He became the first Department of Missouri oratorical chairman and conducted a state-wide program during the 1935-36 school year.

From this beginning, he encouraged The American Legion to adopt the Missouri oratorical contest plan as a national program.  The first national contests were held in 1938, with 11 departments (states) competing and 4,000 participants.  The national finals that year were held in Norman, Okla., with John Janson of Phoenix winning first place.

The national finals returned to Missouri for its 50th anniversary in 1987 when it was hosted by Lee Summit Senior High School in Lee Summit, Mo. In 1997 a major contest innovation was undertaken by centralizing the national finals. The week-long regional, sectional and national finals contest format was changed to a weekend’s competition of quarter-final, semi-final and national final contests that are held in the headquarters city of The American Legion, Indianapolis.

Since its inception, the contest has awarded well over $3 million in scholarships to the participants at the national level of competition.  It currently awards $138,000 annually to department winners competing at the national level.  Many thousands of dollars in scholarships have been awarded at post, district and state levels.

In 2007 the contest name was changed to The American Legion High School Oratorical Scholarship Program, “A Constitutional Speech Contest.”

The contest was developed primarily to instill in high school students a better knowledge and appreciation of the Constitution of the United States.  Other objectives include the development of leadership qualities, the ability to think and speak clearly, and the preparation for acceptance of the duties, responsibilities, rights and privileges of American citizenship.

Another purpose of the program is to assist students in paying the high cost of a college education.  The first place winner this year at the national level will take home $18,000 and the next two finishers receive $16,000 for second place and $14,000 for third place.  First round participants in the national contest receive a $1,500 scholarship.  Second round participants who do not advance to the final round receive an additional $1,500 scholarship.

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