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Oratorical Contest



The Naperville contest was held on Saturday, January 7, 2017 as the start of the 80th Annual National Oratorical Contest for high school students sponsored by the American Legion.  Contestants in the picture, left to right, are:  Shivansh Gupta of Neuqua Valley HS (4th Place Winner of $50), Nicole Tong of Naperville North HS (3rd Place Winner of $300), Regan Macwan of Home School (2nd Place Winner of $400), and Ryan Park of Naperville Central HS (1st Place Winner of $500).


Each student creates an eight minute speech regarding the U.S. Constitution.  The student performs with no notes, podium, nor a microphone.  After several contest levels, the student winners from 50 states will compete in Indianapolis, IN on April 21-23, 2017.  College tuition awards totaling  $13,000 are given at the Illinois State contest level, and similar awards totaling $128,000 are given at the National contest level.  For information about the 2018 contest, contact your local American Legion Post or Don Hennessy at

About the 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 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 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.


$13, 075 in Scholarships awarded!

$13, 075 in Scholarships awarded!

  • 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.


March 3, 2017 @ 5:00 pm thru

March 4, 2017 @ 6:00 pm


Peoria Civic Center, 201 SW Jefferson Ave, Peoria, IL 61602, USA

Application and Brochure

Thank you for your interest in the American Legion Oratorical Contest. For more information visit



​​​Don Hennessy

American Legion Naperville

Oratorical Contest Chairman

2017 Oratorical Contest Topics

The “Assigned Topic” will be chosen at contest time from one of the four listed below.  You must speak no less than 3 minutes, and no more than 5 minutes, on the topic chosen at contest time. Contest timers will raise warning signs at the 3, 4, and 5 minute marks.  The four topics, from which only one will be chosen at each contest level, are as follows

Amendment 7

            In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment 10

            The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.


Amendment 16

            The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

Amendment 17

            The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.  When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.  This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

Additional information

Draft in writing a "Prepared Oration" on some aspect of the U.S. Constitution, with emphasis on a citizen’s duties and obligations to our government.  It must have a title.  It must be a speech that you create.  Quotations must always be indicated as such.  The author’s name must be given in the speech manuscript and cited orally.  The speech must be given in no less than 8 minutes, and no more than 10 minutes.  It does not have to be recited verbatim, but contestants must adhere closely to their manuscript.  Because no podium, no microphone, no notes or other aids are permitted, it is suggested that contestants memorize the beginning and the ending, plus an outline of their speech. 

        Practice with a teacher or parent who will check timing and give constructive comments - like speaking slower and giving good word separation, especially for names, titles and words the judges may not easily recognize.  Because of the time rule, and because one may speak at a different rate in different locations, drafting a 9 minute speech is suggested.  Contest timers will raise warning signs at the 8, 9 and 10 minute marks.  So use a timer when practicing.  

       Have a pleasant facial expression.  Do not be a statue.  Be your natural self, but use expression and emphasis like good speakers do.  Being heard is one thing; being understood in a large room is another thing.  Attach a bibliography sheet at the end of your manuscript to show where your speech information was obtained.  You must bring a copy of your speech manuscript to each contest level.

       Appear in business attire with a parent or teacher. Bring a written copy of your "Prepared Oration" manuscript which must have a title.  "Sign In" at the American Legion Hall, 10 W. Chicago Ave., 2nd Floor, Naperville, on Saturday, January 7, 2017, at 1:30 PM.  The Du Page County Contest date is Sunday, January 8, 2017, at 1:30 PM.  District date is January 15 and Division date is January 22.


       The order of speaking will be determined by lot at contest time. A contestant will not hear speeches of other contestants, but parents, teachers and guests may attend and hear all speeches. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Place Winners and their Prizes will be announced the same afternoon.  The 1st Place Winner earns the right to compete at the next contest level.  Other contestants may be invited to fill vacancies at higher contest levels.  

5. When facts or figures are used, have good back-up sources and references for them in your bibliography. It would be embarrassing to later learn that a speech contained erroneous facts or figures.


      Four weeks or more before contest date of January 7, 2017, a Parent or School Representative must confirm to Contest Chairman Don Hennessy (1) the name, (2) phone number and (3) High School of the contestant that will appear and compete at the contest.  Earlier confirmations are appreciated. This information is needed for determining contest staff and set-ups.

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