By Patricia A. Douglas, Post 911 Public Affairs Coordinator
Division 2 of the American Legion Department of Alabama held the annual Oratorical contest at Shades Crest Baptist Church on Feb. 26. Emma Noble from District 23 was named the winner. Henry Halgren from District 22 was runner-up.
In presenting the certificates and medals, Division 2 Commander Richard Kaster said the speeches were some of the finest he has heard in all the years he has been involved in the competition.
In its 84th year, the contest “exists to develop deeper knowledge and appreciation for the U.S. Constitution among high school students,” according to the Legion website. "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 competition consists of two parts – a prepared oration and assisted topic. The prepared oration must be on some aspect of the U.S. Constitution of the participant's choosing, and be eight to 10 minutes. Halgren’s prepared oration was titled “The Blessings of Liberty,” and Noble’s was “The Power of the Executive Order: Because I Said So.”
The second part of the competition is an assigned speech. Four potential topics are published on the American Legion website, so participants can do prior research. Each student has five minutes' notice on which of the topics were chosen to be part of the competition. Amendment 25, Section 4 was chosen for the contestants to talk about for three to five minutes.
Judicious use of the allotted time is important in the contest. The participants are penalized one point for each minute or fraction over or under the designated time in both competitions. No penalty points were assessed during this year’s contest. In fact, Noble’s prepared oration came in at 9:57.
“This was one of the closest, if not the closest, a contestant has ever come to 10 minutes,” said Ginger Branson, District 21 adjutant and contest moderator.
Halgren was sponsored by Post 208 in Northport. He is a junior at Alabama Virtual Academy.
A student at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, Noble was sponsored by Post 555. After high school, she plans to attend UAB. The junior will advance to the Department of Alabama competition in Montgomery on March 12.