State Oratorical Contest

The American Legion Oratorical Contest exists to develop deeper knowledge and appreciation for the U.S. Constitution among high school students. The 80-year-old program presents participants with an academic speaking challenge that teaches important leadership qualities, the history of our nation’s laws, the ability to think and speak clearly, and an understanding of the duties, responsibilities, rights and privileges of American citizenship. The program has featured numerous politicians and prominent contestants over the years, including former president candidate Alan Keyes and CNN anchor Lou Dobbs.

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.

Assigned Topics

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.

The topic will be on some phase of the U.S. Constitution, selected from Articles and Sections as listed under assigned topics for the current year’s contest in this brochure.

All contestants at each contest level are required to speak in the English language on the same assigned topic.


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 winner of the 2016 American Legion Post 555 Oratorical Contest at Pelham High School on January 26, 2016 was Aaron G. Wilkes, Senior at Pelham High School. He also, went on to win the 23rd District Oratorical Contest.

2018 Competition Dates

  • Post 555 sponsors and hosts the Pelham Post 555 American Legion Oratorical Contest on Wednesday January 10, 2018 at Pelham High School in the school auditorium at 8:00 am.
  • Post 555 sponsors and hosts the 23rd District American Legion Oratorical Contest on Saturday February 3, 2018 at the Pelham First Baptist Church choir room at 10:00 am.
  • Post 555 sponsors and hosts the 2nd Division American Legion Oratorical Contest on Saturday February 17, 2018 at Shades Crest Baptist Church in Bluff Park at 10:00 am.
  • The American Legion Department Contest will be held on Saturday March 10, 2018 in Montgomery, AL.
  • The American Legion National Finals will be held April 13-15, 2018 at Indianapolis, IN.

If you are interested in participating in this program and are a student at Pelham High School, contact the Pelham High School Administration or if not at Pelham High School then American Legion Post 555 Oratorical Chair: Richard Kaster at rlkaster@bellsouth.net (205)243-0763 or Post 555 Commander at commander@ALpost555.com (205)678-1375.