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Guide to the American Legion Oratorical Contest

While there are many great opportunities for students to enhance their public speaking skills, there are only a few that offer monetary compensation for doing so. The American Legion Oratorical Contest is one such opportunity, and it also gives students the chance to learn more about the United States Constitution and duties of being a U.S. Citizen.


The program offers many other benefits, including meeting people from various backgrounds, perfecting the art of public speaking, and earning scholarships through the American Legion. Read on to find out more about the contest and how you could win up to $18,000.


What is the American Legion Oratorical Contest?

The oratorical contest is often referred to as the “Constitutional Speech Contest,” which began in 1938. The program presents participants with academic challenges that teach leadership skills, the history of our nation’s laws, and a deeper understanding of the duties, rights, responsibilities, and privileges of being an American citizen. Numerous politicians, including former presidential candidate Alan Keyes and CNN anchor Lou Dobbs have participated as contestants.


Who can compete in the contest?

Eligible participants must be U.S. citizens, enrolled in a high school curriculum for students in grades 9-12 and under the age of 20 during all levels of the competition. A student must also live in or attend an educational institution within the geographic area of the departmental district competition.


High school students who graduate early may compete in the competition if they are not enrolled in an institution of higher learning at the time of the department competition as long as they meet the other eligibility requirements.


What is involved in the oratorical contest?

Each contestant must write and prepare an eight-to-ten-minute oration that addresses some aspect of the Constitution and the duties and obligations we have to our government as a U.S. citizen. The prepared oration must be memorized and delivered within the time limits or a penalty will be assessed. If a contestant competes in subsequent years, the prepared oration speech may be reused, modified, or rewritten.


In addition, the contestants must deliver a three-to-five-minute speech on one of four assigned topics that are randomly selected. The assigned topic is usually an amendment or article in the Constitution and will test the speaker’s knowledge of the topic, the extent of his or her research, and his or her ability to discuss the topic in relation to the principles of government under the Constitution.


In 2017, the assigned topics were amendments 7, 10, 16, and 17. The topics are assigned prior to the competition, which allows the contestants to adequately prepare for them. It is highly recommended that the contestants prepare a speech prior to the competition. The speech must be memorized and fall within the three to five- minute range, or penalty points will be assessed.

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What are the various levels of competition?

Although each state’s rules differ, most students must compete at a local, district, region, and state level before advancing to the national level. There is monetary compensation for the winners at each level, and the top monetary award at nationals is $18,000. If you advance to nationals, you are guaranteed a minimum of $1,500 just for competing.


How much will it cost me if I make it to nationals?

Most states pay for the contestant and a chaperone or coach to attend the national competition. This includes airfare, hotel accommodations and some meals. If you bring additional people to support you, they will be responsible for all of their expenses.


Where do I find more information about the contest?

You may find more information at https://www.legion.org/oratorical. You may also view videos of past winners as well as dates and deadlines that are applicable to the contest along with other opportunities provided by the American Legion. Additionally, you can find more information by contacting your local American Legion post.


If you’d like to learn more about various other scholarship opportunities, check out these recent CollegeVine posts:


12 Community Service Scholarships For Students Who Give Back

How to Afford College: Exploring Your Options

What is a Merit Scholarship?

Scholarships and Competitions for Students in the Performing Arts


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Tammy Goerger
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Tammy Goerger is a long-time educator and geo-circle lead for the Joyce Ivy Foundation. She is the mother of three children who attended Yale, Stanford, and Princeton, and she has a passion for helping students achieve their dreams and aspirations. She has been a resource for students and parents about the application process, financial aid, and scholarships. She enjoys sharing her love for music with others and volunteers as an EMT on her local ambulance squad. She strives to teach her students about the importance of community service, as well as the importance of living with an attitude of gratitude.