Department of Florida

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Oratorical: Chair

From the Chair

September 2022


It must be serendipity. While perusing articles on line about public speaking and looking for inspiration for the Legion Link, I clicked on an article by Florida political writer and speaker, Blake Dowling, titled “What it Takes to Write a Great Life Lesson’ Speech.”

In his article, he talks about Jimmy Valvano, the head basketball coach at North Carolina State University, my alma mater. I was a sophomore at NC State when Jimmy V arrived to coach the team. Because I played in the Pep Band, I got to see many games, but none as memorable as the win against Huston in 1983 that led NC State to win the NCAA. With 4 seconds on the clock, and the game tied 52 to 52, Derek Whittenburg made a desperation shot from over 30 feet away and Lorenzo Charles dunked it for win, just as the buzzer sounded. Coach Valvano was running around on the court frantically looking for “someone to hug” he said. Whittenburg was going to hit us with his best shot and that tiny bit of teamwork sealed the deal. It was monumental! Valvano was known for saying “never give up, never give up.” This is why. I think about that mantra when I think about some of the Oratorical contestants who have competed at the Department level more than once. Some compete more than once at local levels never making it to the Department. It takes some courage to get up on a stage and give a challenging speech on a topic that is not easy to cover in 10 minutes. These students work hard to be a part of this contest and I consider it an honor to support and reward them however I can. I can’t wait to see the students give us their best shot this year!

The Oratorical Chairman manuals will be mailed out very soon. Here are the contest dates so you can mark your calendars.
**All contests must occur during this time frame**

  • Post Level
    January 1, 2023 – January 15, 2023
  • District Level
    January 15, 2023 – January 29, 2023
  • Area Level
    January 30, 2023 – February 12, 2023
  • Department Finals
    February 25, 2023

The awards listed below will be made at the Department level and awarded to the winners respectively. Travel and hotel accommodations will be paid by the Department of Florida for the contestants and chaperones to attend the Department Finals.

  • First Place $2,500.00
  • Second Place $1,500.00
  • Third Place $1,000.00
  • Fourth Place $500
  • Fifth Place $500
  • Sixth Place $500

Each Area contestant who participates in first round but does not advance to the Department Finals will receive a $100.00 scholarship from the American Legion, Department of Florida. It is the Area Chair’s responsibility to send the runner-up contestant information to Department, so the participant can receive the $100.00 scholarship. Department does not issue a prize check to the Area winner.


  • Post contest completed by January 15, 2023
  • District contest completed by January 29, 2023
  • Area contest completed by February 12, 2023

To see the Assigned Topics, you can visit Aside from the dates, not much has changed in the manual from last year.

Schools in FL just started in the last week so you can start reaching out to the teachers and counselors now that you have dates to give them.

As for the awards…..these are recommended awards. If your Post or District can do more it is certainly welcome. I would like to see a bigger and more standardized award structure but we will cover that in a separate email or meeting.

Here are two resources you can take advantage of:

First, you can get 100 pocket Constitutions from the Bill of Rights Institute. It takes a few weeks to receive them so order soon. Here is the link:

Where it asks for School, I put Florida American Legion Oratorical Contest and I give my home address. I ask for 100 each year as that is the limit and I give them away at schools and contests. If you are at a school promoting the contest, handing these out is a good way to start a conversation with someone about the contest.
Secondly, Caroline Freeman, a 2012 National Semi-Finalist wrote a helpful guide for students who are thinking about competing. She breaks down more about the craft of choosing historical examples to use, relating them to contemporary times, building an outline. I think it’s very helpful, especially for students that do not have help from speech and debate teachers. You can purchase a copy of it for $14.99 at the link above. I have a few copies I can disseminate by email. It’s about 60 pages.

That is it for now. As soon as I get the current list of the Oratorical Chairs I will start emailing again.

If you have any questions, email me at or text me at 904-704-0936. I can call you if want to make an appointment but I get so many spam calls I am not likely to answer if I don’t know it’s you!

Meri West
Oratorical Chair