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American Legion to sponsor oratorical scholarship contest


American Legion Post 67, Morgan, will again in the second or third week in January of 2018 (actual date to be determined by the end of December), conduct the American Legion High School Oratorical Scholarship Contest. On the national level, the American Legion has sponsored the High School Oratorical Scholarship Contest since 1938.

Contest history. William A. Kitchen, a past department (state) 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, Mo., 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.

Contest purpose. 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 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. Local winners will receive $100 for first place, $75 for second, $50 for third and $25 for honorable mention.

Here is a brief outline of what the Contest consists of:

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 Prepared Oration ranges in time from 8 to 10 minutes.

The Assigned Topics for 2018 Oratorical Contest are:

Amendment 2:  A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment 3:  No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment 15: Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Section 2.  The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Article 2 Section 4: The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

The Assigned Topic Oration ranges in time from 3 to 5 minutes.

Eligibility:  Eligible participants must be citizens of or lawful permanent residents of the United States. All contestants must be bona fide students herein described as any student under the age of 20 years on the date of the national contest who is presently enrolled in a high school or junior high school (public, parochial, military, private or home school). The curriculum of the school must be considered to be of high school level, commencing with grade 9 and terminating with grade 12. Students must be enrolled in high school or junior high school during the time of participation at any level of The American Legion National High School Oratorical Scholarship Contest. Contestants must either be legally domiciled within or attend an educational institution within the department (state) that they enter competition. Contestants can enter competition through only one department.

High school students that graduate early during the school year are eligible to compete if they are not enrolled in a college, university, trade school or other institution of higher learning at the time of the department finals contest.

The three finalists of the national contest are ineligible for further participation at any level.

Any students that are involved in high school or junior high school (public, parochial, military, private or home school) and meet the eligibility requirements as outlined above need to call Morgan High School at 801-829-3418 and ask for the debate coach, Layne Carter, to get further details on how to enter the Oratorical Scholarship Contest at the high school level. Because of time constraints, we limit the number of contestants to five. The debate coach and the English Department will determine who the best five will be to participate in the local Post 67 contest to be held either the first or second week in January 2018. Best of luck to all who participate.

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