On Saturday, February 20th, American Legion Post 51 in Lebanon, OR hosted the annual American Legion National High School Oratorical Contest also known as ‘A Constitutional Speech Contest’. Three contestants participated, and several members of posts throughout Oregon volunteered their time to support the event.
‘A Constitutional Speech Contest’ was founded over eighty years ago and “exists to develop deeper knowledge and appreciation for the U.S. Constitution among high school students” (www.legion.org/oratorical/about). The winners of the department and national levels receive academic scholarships that can be used at any university or college in the United States.
(Cory Brockmann, Viti Eachambadi, Kalyn Lafayette, Tanner Stenkamp)
Contestants must prepare an original 8 to 10 minute oration on the American Constitution. They cannot use note cards or props while speaking and are judged on the content of their oration and their public speaking skills. Contestants were permitted to remove their face masks prior to speaking.
A second portion of the contest includes contestants speaking on one assigned topic, chosen randomly from four topics. Following their prepared oration, contestants are escorted into a private room where they are presented with an envelope containing the topic. Upon opening the envelope, they are given 5 minutes to organize their thoughts before they are brought back onstage to speak for 3 to 5 minutes.
This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only contestants, family members of contestants and volunteers were allowed to be present. Nonetheless, it was a well-represented event. The three female contestants, in order as they spoke, were as follows:
- Tanner Stenkamp, a sophomore at Redmond High School – Sponsoring Post – Ray Johnson Post 44, Redmond
- Kalyn Lafayette, a senior at Central Linn High School – Sponsoring Post – Travis Moothart Post 184, Brownsville
- Viti Eachambadi, a junior at Westview High School – Sponsoring Post – John Kalmbach Post 90, Banks
Following the tabulation and verification of judges’ points, the winners were announced as follows:
1st Place – Kalyn Lafayette
“Founding Fathers and the 1st Amendment” – $5,000 Academic Scholarship
2nd Place – Viti Eachambadi
“The Beating Heart of the Constitution – An Eternal Flame” – $3,500 Academic Scholarship
3rd Place – Tanner Stenkamp
“Playing Through the Centuries” – $2,500 Academic Scholarship
Due to the cancellation of the National Finals Contest, students who placed first at the department level were awarded an additional $5,000 academic scholarship sponsored by The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation and The American Legion. Therefore, Kalyn Lafayette won a total of $10,000.
Congratulations to the winners! And a special thank you to the 2020-2021 Department Oratorical Committee:
- Steve Bergadine, Earle B. Stewart Post 16, Roseburg
- Debra Jacobson, Pioneer Post 149, Salem
- Richard Ramey, Canby Post 122, Canby
- PNC Charles Schmidt, Harney County Post 63, Burns
- Cory Brockmann (Chairman), Aloha Post 104, Aloha
‘A Constitutional Speech Contest’ is open to all eligible high school students in grades 9-12. Contestants do not have to be descendants of veterans. For additional information, please visit www.legion.org/oratorical/about.