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News Education American Legion hosts 74th high school oratorical contest

First Place winner Jordan Mann, (left), 17 year old Junior from Pisgah High Scholl and Second Place winner Kenneth Hill, 18 year old senior from Murphy High School.The American Legion Post 108 hosted the 25th District’s American Legion High School Oratorical Contest last Saturday. Two students competed for a chance to go to the 5th Division competition in Hickory, North Carolina on Feb. 12. Winners of the division will go on to the state, followed by the national competition.

“This year is the 74th Oratorical Contest. The theme of the contest is the Constitution. Today’s winner can go on to compete for scholarships of $3,500 for First Place at the state level and an $18,000 scholarship at the national level,” said 25th District Commander Larry White, of Franklin. “We had two wonderful contestants today. It was a close contest.”

The speech contest is designed to increase a student’s knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and with public speaking skills that can help them in their chosen profession.

The 25th District is comprised of 10 American Legion posts in Western North Carolina. The contest drew only two contestants from the Murphy and Pisgah posts, out of a possible ten. Franklin High School was not represented at the competition due to a lack of coordination between the American Legion and Franklin High School and low interest in the contest by the school’s faculty, according to guidance counsellor Kathy Breedlove.

First Place winner, Pisgah High School junior Jordan Mann, 17, chose the 18th Amendment for her speech. Second Place winner, Murphy High School senior Kenneth Hill, 17, selected the First Amendment as his topic. In the event that Jordan is not able to compete at the division level, Kenneth will go in her place.

The students were each given eight to ten minutes to deliver their prepared speeches.

Jordan spoke on the 18th Amendment, the only amendment to be repealed, which bans the manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors.

Kenneth’s speech, on the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of religion, speech, the press and to peaceably assemble. The following quote from his speech calls us to action. “American citizens need to be familiar with their natural rights and the governmental structure created by the Constitution.”

Following their prepared speeches, Jordan and Kenneth were required to give an impromptu speech lasting 3 to 5 minutes on the 8th Amendment which prohibits the government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines or cruel and unusual punishment.

The contestants were scored on content and speaking skills. Content was required to be original, fresh, and direct. Selecting appropriate examples, analogies, anecdotes and data to support the content of their speech had to be demonstrated, as well as logic and knowledge of the topic. Speaking skills included voice, diction, style, word use, poise, gestures and eye contact.

Judges for the contest were Bob Crume, Franklin, retired Boeing engineer; Beverly Waller, Waynesville, past (state) A.L. Auxiliary President; Robert Holland, Franklin, Macon County Sheriff; and Shirley Reynolds, Franklin, retired Macon County school teacher.

Sheriff Holland said of being asked to participate, “Any time something involves the youth I am happy to take part.”

Deciding the winner was difficult for the judges. The scoring was very close with a slim margin of nine points out of a total of 370 given among the four judges. The deciding factor came down to the runner-up faltering during the impromptu speech segment on the 8th Amendment.

Following the contest First Place winner Jordan Mann said, “It was harder than I thought, but I enjoyed it.”

Sheriff Robert Holland commented following the awards presentation. “At your age I could never have gotten up in front of people and given a speech. I admire and respect you for what you did today.”

To learn more about the American Legion Speech Contest go to

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