The American Legion Post 175
High School Oratorical Contest
High school students vie for college scholarships awarded by The American Legion by demonstrating their knowledge of the United States Constitution in public speaking contests in local, regional, state and national levels.
Purpose: The Oratorical program was developed primarily to instill a deeper knowledge and appreciation of the U.S. Constitution in high school students. Participants also grow in leadership ability, their capacity to think and speak clearly and intelligently, and understanding of the rights, responsibilities, obligations and privileges of U.S. citizens.
The program also assists students in affording a college education, with the national first-place winner receiving $25,000 and the next two finishers taking home $22,500 and $20,000, respectively. First round participants in the national contest receive a $2,000 scholarship. Second-round participants who do not advance to the final round receive an additional $2,000 scholarship.
Eligibility: Eligible participants in The American Legion’s High School Oratorical Scholarship Program shall be citizens of or lawful permanent residents of the United States. Contestants must be bona fide students, described as any student younger than 20 on the date of the national contest who is presently enrolled in a high school or junior high school (public, parochial, military, private or homeschool), commencing with grade 9 and terminating with grade 12. Students must be enrolled in high school or junior high school when participating at any level of the program. High school students who 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. Contestants must be legally domiciled within or attend an educational institution within the department (state) where they enter competition. Contestants can enter competition in only one department (state). The three national finalists will be ineligible to participate again
The American Legion U.S. Constitutional Speech Contest in Hanover County
The American Legion Post 175 in Mechanicsville is the ‘host’ for High Schools and students located east of Interstate 95 (I-95) within Hanover County. The American Legion Post 90 in Beaverdam is the ‘host’ for High Schools and students located west of Interstate 95 (I-95) within Hanover County.
There are hundreds of dollars in scholarships available to students who are in 9th through 12th grades who wish to participate. Each student must prepare 5 distinct speeches. The contest includes one 8 to 10 minute speech on any topic of the students choosing, as long as it pertains to the U.S. Constitution and our responsibility as citizens to uphold our role within our republic.
There is an additional requirement for the presentation of one 3 to 5 minute speech that is randomly selected from 4 possible topics. Families and students are strongly encouraged to contact the contest organizers to begin their competition preparations.
Deadline for 2023-2024 registrations will be posted as soon as known.
The Prepared Oration
The prepared oration must be on some aspect of the U.S. Constitution, with emphasis on citizens’ duties and obligations to our government. The same subject and oration used in the department contest must be used in the national contest. The prepared oration must be the original effort of each contestant and not take up less than eight (8) minutes or more than 10 minutes for delivery. It must be delivered in English. Contestants may have in their possession a copy of their prepared oration in the first holding room, electronic or hard copy. They may consult the copy until they exit the first holding room to begin the contest, at which time it will be surrendered to the contest official monitoring the first holding room. Quotations must be indicated as such. Where quotations are more than 10 words in length, the author’s name must be given in the manuscript and cited orally.
The assigned topic discourse must not consume less than three (3) minutes or more than five (5) minutes for delivery. The purpose of the assigned topic discourse is to test the speaker's knowledge of the subject, the extent of his or her research, and the ability to discuss the topic as related to the basic principles of government under the Constitution.
The assigned topic shall be drawn by the contest official in full view of the audience immediately before the last speaker begins delivery of his or her prepared oration and will be made known to the audience and each contestant approximately five (5) minutes prior to the time of delivery.
All contestants at each contest level are required to speak in the English language on the same assigned topic.
Assigned Topics for the 2022 Oratorical Contest were:
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.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Amendment XIV, Section 3
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
Amendment XXV, Section 4
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
Oratorical Contest Rules and Regulations
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 Contest. Contestants must either be legally domiciled within or attend an educational institution within the department 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.
The Prepared Oration
The oration must be on some aspect of the Constitution, with emphasis on a citizen’s duties and obligations to our government. The same subject and oration used in the department contest must be used in the national contest.
Contestants may have a copy of their prepared oration while waiting in the first holding room. They may consult the copy until they exit to begin the contest. The copy will then be surrendered to the contest official monitoring the first holding room.
Quotations must always be indicated as such. Where quotations are more than 10 words in length, the author’s name must be given in the manuscript and cited orally.
It is acceptable to utilize or incorporate short phrases in a foreign language to develop the argument, establish a point, etc. It should be understood that the vast majority of the prepared oration and/or assigned topic must still be delivered in English. Singing is not permitted and will result in immediate disqualification. The contestant may, however, quote a verse(s) of a song(s) provided proper attribution is made.
The official in charge of the contest conducts a drawing to determine the order by which contestants will appear. The contest chairman introduces each contestant, then announces the title of the contestant’s prepared oration. The audience must refrain from applause until the judges make a decision.
A raised platform is not mandatory; however, it is strongly recommended. The use of notes, amplification, lectern or speaker’s stand or any manner of prompting is not permitted. Props are not permitted.
Contestants and audience members may not use any form of electronic/digital data gathering, receiving and/or transmitting equipment.
Contestants must deliver their prepared oration in no fewer than eight (8) minutes and no more than 10 minutes. The assigned topic runs no fewer than three (3) minutes and no more than five (5) minutes.
The contest chairman names an official timer who keeps an accurate time record of each contestant. The timer is located on the main floor in full view of the contestants and will begin timing each contestant at the start of the prepared oration. The timer should have a stopwatch and time cards displaying the numbers 8, 9 and 10 for the prepared oration. When eight minutes have gone by, the time warning card with the number 8 is placed in full view of the speaker, followed by 9 and 10 accordingly. The same procedure is used during the assigned topic discourse with cards bearing 3, 4 and 5. The contest chairman will announce the time each contestant uses for the prepared oration and the assigned topic immediately after each contestant speaks in front of the judges.
Until their turn to speak, contestants must remain in a private room where other speakers’ discourses cannot be heard. The contest chairman will appoint an individual to supervise each contestant. As the contestants conclude their prepared orations, they must return to a soundproof waiting room. Speakers who conclude their assigned topic discourse may not associate with contestants who have not finished speaking.
Approximately five (5) minutes before the start of the assigned topic discourse, the first contestant will be informed of the assigned topic drawn. He or she retires to privacy under the direction of an individual appointed by the contest chairman; it’s this individual’s duty to see that the contestant doesn’t consult any text matter or notes with any connection to the subject. Contestants may only reference the actual words of the topic provided on the card drawn.
Each succeeding contestant will be called upon in the order that he or she previously appeared. He or she will also, in turn, be informed of the topic of the assigned topic discourse and shall then be escorted to the same privacy provided for the first contestant.
Contestants must give their prepared oration and the assigned topic discourse to receive the scholarship monies to which they are entitled.
What to wear
Uniforms are not permitted. Appropriate business attire is required for all contestants. Contestants may not wear awards and medals from previous competitions.
The American Legion pays travel and lodging expenses for Department (state) winners and their chaperones participating in the National contest. A chaperone over 21 years of age must accompany each contestant.
The American Legion does not assume liability for personal injury, property damage or loss sustained by any contestant or chaperone enroute to or from the contest; however, The American Legion does carry a nominal group accident insurance policy on contestants accepted into the national competition. The American Legion selects an air carrier for contestants' travel.
The contest chairman will appoint no fewer than three (3) tabulators for the department finals contest. It's their responsibility to review the judges' scorecards to be certain they are fully tabulated and signed before being submitted for final tabulation.
Judges' scorecards for department finals and the national contest will not be divulged to anyone at the site of the contest. All national contest judges' scorecards become property of The American Legion National Headquarters.
Judges are an important part of the oratorical contest. Their qualifications are carefully considered, as their decisions are final and must be reached without bias. Impartial judging is the key to fairness and success of the program, which selects a national champion.
All department finals and the national contest have five (5) judges, who are not allowed to receive any publicity before the event. During the contest, judges sit in different locations, and each renders his or her final decision without any sort of consultation.
Judges are advised to downgrade contestants who fail to emphasize the prepared oration and the assigned topic discourse on a citizen’s duties and obligations to our government. Judges can downgrade a contestant up to 10 points for failure to speak about the Constitution. The contest chairman will announce any time violations for contestants. A penalty of one point for each minute, or fraction thereof, shall be assessed toward the contestant’s total score.
Following the last assigned topic discourse, the judges, timekeepers, tabulators and contest chairman may proceed to a private room for final review and tabulation.
The Post 175 Point of Contact (POC) is the Chair of the Oratorical Contest Committee.
The 13th District Oratorical Contest was not held in 2022-2023. (POC: Robin Riddle, Tel: (434) 242-7462)
The American Legion Department of Virginia (13th District) includes:
Public School Districts:
Albemarle, Fluvanna, Goochland, Greene, Hanover, Louisa, Madison, and Orange Counties plus the City of Charlottesville.
The 15 Public High Schools found within The American Legion’s 13th District are:
Albemarle High School
Atlee High School
Charlottesville High School
Fluvanna County High School
Goochland County High School
Greene County High School
Hanover High School
Louisa County High School
Madison County High School
Mechanicsville High School
Monticello High School
Murray High School
Orange County High School
Patrick Henry High School
Western Albemarle High School
Links of Interest:
The American Legion (National) Oratorical Contest
The American Legion, Department of Virginia Oratorical Contest