Matthew Blount Post 555 conducts its local scholarship competition in January each year at Pelham High School, Pelham, Alabama. The winner will advance to the District Level. Scholarships are distributed at the school’s year-end award ceremonies.
About the Oratorical Contest
“A constitutional speech contest”
The American Legion Oratorical Contest exists to develop deeper knowledge and appreciation for the U.S. Constitution among high school students. Since 1938, the program has presented 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 presidential candidate Alan Keyes and CNN anchor Lou Dobbs.
Young orators earn some of the most generous college scholarships available to high school students. Over $138,000 in scholarships can be awarded each year. The overall national contest winner gets an $18,000 scholarship. Second place takes home $16,000, and third gets $14,000. Each department (state) winner who is certified into and participates in the national contest’s first round receives a $1,500 scholarship. Those who advance past the first round receive an additional $1,500 scholarship. The American Legion’s National Organization awards the scholarships, which can be used at any college or university in the United States.
High school students under age 20 are eligible. Competition begins at the post level and advances to a state competition. Legion Department representatives certify one winner per state to the national contest, where Department winners compete against each other in two speaking rounds. The contest caps off with a final round that decides the three top finishers.
Speaking subjects must be on some aspect of the U.S. Constitution, with some emphasis on the duties and obligations of citizens to our government. Speeches are eight to 10 minutes long; three- to five-minute speeches on an assigned topic also are part of the contest.
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 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.
Assigned Topics for 2020 Oratorical Contest
Amendment XII – Electoral College
Amendment XXIV – Citizens' right to vote shall not be denied by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.
Amendment XXVII – No law, varying the compensation for the services of Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
Amendment XX – Terms of President and Vice President. When Congress shall assemble. Articles of Presidential succession.
More Information : Contact your High School Counselor
American Legion Post 555 Oratorical Winners
Post 555 has participated in the American Oratorical Scholarship Program since 2016. In addition to hosting the local Pelham High School competition, the Post has also hosted several of District 23 and Division 2 competition