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American Legion Scholarship returns

An annual opportunity to win scholarships is preparing for another year of students.

The American Legion is starting to accept applications for the American Legion High School Oratorical Scholarship Program. Since 1938, the American Legion has provided this opportunity for youth to earn scholarship money while developing a knowledge and appreciation for the U.S. Constitution.

American Legion High School Oratorical Scholarship Program is for high school students. Students can be enrolled in a public, private, military, parochial or homeschool program.

“The American Legion is big into veterans, but also big into youth, and we want to help them understand patriotism and duties as a citizen of this country,” said Greg Mueller, the department chairman of the contest and member of Post 49 in Smithfield.

The program includes two oral presentations that students recite at local, district, regional, state and national levels. Only the first-place winner at each level can move on to the next round. The students must create an 8- to 10-minute memorized oration about the U.S. Constitution. The student will then provide a 3- to 5-minute speech on a randomly selected topic from the four given to them to prepare.

This contest gives students a chance to win scholarship money as it teaches students about the Constitution and its importance and role.

“The greater benefit I see is that it teaches students, and probably their parents as they practice and try to learn their speech, about the Constitution and why it’s a keystone document,” said Mueller.

Scholarship opportunities are available at each level of the contest. The local levels have more modest prize amounts for first, second and third place winners. It all builds up to the national prize of $25,000. Even for those who do not place, there are still benefits to competing.

“Taking part in this competition helps the students build skills that they will need to succeed in college and their future careers,” said Mueller. “It requires research, making compelling arguments, and public speaking. These are all skills that will help in the long run. Most will not do well financially, but lifelong benefits are there.”

The local competitions start in December and continue through the beginning of the year until the national contest in April. No decisions have been made concerning the possible effects of COVID-19.

Interested students, teachers, guidance counselors or parents should contact Legionnaire Greg Mueller at vaoratorical@yahoo.com or 757-477-7904. To learn more, visit legion.org/oratorical for rules, details and videos of speeches from past years.