The purpose of The American Legionís National High School Oratorical Contest is to develop a deeper knowledge and appreciation of the Constitution of the United States on the part of high school students. Other objectives of the contest include the development of leadership qualities, the ability to think and speak clearly and intelligently, and the preparation for acceptance of the duties and responsibilities, the rights and privileges of American citizenship.
2015 - 2016 Contest Dates
Local Contests Must be completed by December 13, 2015
County Contests To be held between December 14, 2015, and January 3, 2016
District Contests To be held between January 4, 2016, and January 17, 2016
Area Contests To be held between January 18, 2016, and January 31, 2016
Area I: Hosted by Sixth District
Area II: Hosted by Second District
Area III: Hosted by Eighth District
Department Finals Sunday, February 14, 2016, Airport Holiday Inn, Des Moines at 8:00 a.m.
All contestants will be required to report to the hotel on Saturday, February 13, 2016, by 6:00 p.m.
Eligible participants in The American Legion National High School Oratorical Contest shall 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 twenty (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 state accredited home school) in which the curriculum of said high school is considered to be of high school level, commencing with grade nine (9) and terminating with grade twelve (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 (State) that they enter competition. Contestants can enter competition through only one Department.
The three finalists of the National Contest will be ineligible for further participation at any level.
The American Legion National High School Oratorical Contest begins with contests at the Post level in the fall. For more information in participating, contact your local American Legion Post, e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or, call Department Headquarters at 800-365-8387.
Awards and Scholarships
Post, County and District Levels - Varies by location
A. $50 awarded by The American Legion of Iowa for expenses;
B. $200 Scholarship awarded to each contestant who participates at the Area level, but does not advance to Department-level competition.
Department (State) Contest - The American Legion of Iowa awards scholarships to the three finalists and The American Legion of Iowa Foundation awards a matching scholarship, as listed below:
Oratorical Contest National Finals
The 2016 National Finals is April 15-17, 2016, in Indianapolis, at the Wyndham Indianapolis West Hotel, 2544 Executive Dr, Indianapolis, IN 46241. Quarterfinal and semifinal contests are scheduled for Saturday, April 16, with the finals scheduled for Sunday, April 17.
All contestants and chaperones will arrive the Friday of the contest weekend. All contestants and chaperones will stay at the official contest hotel.
A mandatory pre-contest orientation session for all contestants will take place the Friday evening of the contest weekend. A banquet honoring all contestants will be Sunday afternoon, following the national championship contest. All contestants and chaperones will depart for home later that afternoon.
Final Round of the National Contest:
About the Contest
ďA Constitutional Speech ContestĒ
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 nationís 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.
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 contestís first round receives a $1,500 scholarship. Those who advance past the first round receive an additional $1,500 scholarship. The American Legionís 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 oration must be on some aspect of the Constitution, with emphasis on a citizenís 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 authorís 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 2016 Oratorical Contest
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Article 1 Section 9 Paragraph 2
The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.
Article 1 Section 6 Clause 1
The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
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 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 contestantís 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 speakerís 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 minutes and no more than 10 minutes. The assigned topic runs no fewer than three minutes and no more than five 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 speakersí 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 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; itís this individualís duty to see that the contestant doesnít 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 winners and their chaperones. 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 en route 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 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 champion.
All department finals and the national contests have five 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 citizenís 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 contestantís 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.
Television and radio
Live television and radio broadcasts are permitted in all contests, as well as filming, taping or other types of media for later showing, provided:
1. Lighting and other site conditions are the same for all contestants.
2. Filming or broadcasts in no way distract the contestants or interfere with the pre-announced scheduled time of the contest.
3. The normal speaking voice of the contestant is not interfered with or amplified within the auditorium.
4. The American Legion is in no way financially obligated without prior approval.
For more information, contact your local American Legion Post or Department Headquarters at 800-365-8387 or email@example.com