Indiana claims 75th Oratorical win

Rebecca Frazer of Morgantown, Ind., was crowned champion of The American Legion’s 75th High School Oratorical Scholarship Program, "A Constitutional Speech Contest," Sunday morning in Indianapolis. Frazer’s winning oration, “Maintaining Liberty, the People’s Call,” earned her first place and an $18,000 scholarship.

Frazer, who was sponsored by Legion Post 230 in Martinsville, Ind., is a returning Oratorical candidate. However, unlike her success Sunday on stage, she didn’t advance past the national quarterfinals in 2011. So after earning a spot as a top three finalists and then capturing the 75th championship title, Frazer is more than elated.

“I was so excited, I was thrilled, and ever since last year I have wanted to talk on the big stage in front of everyone,” Frazer said. “I have enjoyed the experience, and I’m so thankful.”

Second-place finish was awarded to Charles Baines of Meridian, Idaho, who was sponsored by Legion Post 127 in Eagle, Idaho, and earned a $16,000 scholarship for his oration titled, “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.”  And third-place finish was awarded to John Donaldson IV of Eden Prairie, Minn., who was sponsored by Legion Post 118 and earned a $14,000 scholarship for his oration titled, “The Constitution: The Framers Loan to Us.”

Once Frazer, Baines and Donaldson graced the auditorium’s stage, they individually presented their rehearsed eight- to 10-minute oration in front of a large audience filled with family, Legionnaires, the other 49 Oratorical candidates and a panel of six judges. The judges consisted of attorneys, law professors, speech and debate coaches and journalists.

Preceding the orations, the three finalists presented a three- to five-minute speech on an assigned topic discourse—a phase of the Constitution selected from Articles and Sections. The assigned topic for the championship finals was drawn by American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong and was made known to the audience and each finalist five minutes prior to the time of delivery.

The assigned topic chosen was Amendment 15, Section 1: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

The Amendment chosen gave Frazer that extra confidence needed to take the overall win.

“This was the first time I got to speak on Amendment 15 during this competition, and it was my favorite (assigned topic) that I had written,” Frazer said. “I was actually praying before the contest, ‘God let me get Amendment 15,’ because I wanted to give my speech. So I was thrilled when they drew it. I think my prep monitor saw a little jump of excitement.”

Watch Frazer's assigned topic presentation here.

Meanwhile, all 52 Oratorical participants received a monetary award for their achievement and involvement in the prestigious Oratorical contest.  Everyone who participated in the quarterfinals received a $1,500 scholarship, while the nine contestants who advanced to semifinals received an additional $1,500. More importantly, Joseph Caouette, chairman of the Legion’s National Americanism Commission, provided remarks of encouragement to the candidates, emphasizing that “you are all champions. You did not lose here. Remember that.”

Frazer now joins an elite group of Oratorical champions. Review the list of past national champions here.