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, national television commentator and talk radio host Lou Dobbs, and former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
Young orators earn some of the most generous college scholarships available to high school students. Over $203,500 in scholarships can be awarded each year. The overall national contest winner gets a $25,000 scholarship. Second place takes home $22,500, and third gets $20,000. Each department (state) winner who is certified into and participates in the national contest’s first round receives a $2,000 scholarship. Those who advance past the first round receive an additional $2,000 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.
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