1922. The Legion’s National Essay Contest invited students from across the country to respond to the question, "How can The American Legion best serve the nation?"
Thousands of essays came to National Headquarters in Indianapolis. Various posts and departments gave out awards of their own, but on the national level, two prize winners in each state received a medal. Additionally, there were three main winners — 13-year-old Ah Sing Ching of Hawaii won first place and $750; 17-year-old Pauline Chastain of Indiana won second place and $500; and 16-year-old Joseph Giandonato of Connecticut (who apparently wrote his essay in blank verse) won third place and $250. In 2010 terms, Ching’s prize would be worth nearly $10,000.
Of the current Legion scholarship opportunities, the Oratorical program is the oldest. In its first year, 1938, a total of $2,500 in scholarships was distributed by the organization.