Department of Delaware holds Oratorical Contest at VA hospital

After years of hosting its Oratorical Contest at an American Legion post or community college, the Department of Delaware changed venues to the Wilmington VA Medical Center three years ago. The move increased audience attendance and resulted in a new judge – the VA’s director.

“We used to have just the (contestants') parents and then maybe four other people watch. Now we are getting more Legion members out to watch the program,” said Chuck Armbruster, Department of Delaware’s Oratorical chairman. “Legion members know where the VA is and some of the doctors, nurses and patients will also stop in to watch (the high school students speak on the U.S. Constitution).”

As a patient of the Wilmington VA and a volunteer in its information center, Armbruster spoke with the hospital’s leadership about hosting the Oratorical Contest. “The VA has been spectacular with letting us use its facility. It’s been a nice fit for us,” Armbruster said. And he asked Wilmington VA Medical Center Director Robin Aube-Warren to be a judge.

“The Wilmington VAMC is honored to provide space and partner with The American Legion for its Oratorical competition for several reasons,” Aube-Warren said. “We are proud to support veterans groups and support our youth in gaining financial assistance for higher education. But most importantly, the theme of the competition, ‘The (U.S.) Constitution,’ resonates with us as every servicemember must swear to ‘protect the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’

“As millions of veterans have placed their lives on the line, with many sacrificing their lives for this noble cause, it is gratifying that our youth have a better understanding of this amazing document.

“Personally, as a veteran and a parent, I was impressed and awed by the courage of the contestants to speak in front of a large audience, as well as the hard work it took to prepare. I even learned a few things from them. It was an honor and a privilege to judge the competition.”

The other judges included Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques Jr; State Auditor Tom Wagner Jr.; State Solicitor Aaron Goldstein; and National Guard Lt. Colonel Angela Schuler.

The department held its 2016 contest inside the VA’s auditorium on Feb. 18, where six participants vied for a chance to earn a spot in the upcoming National Oratorical Contest in Indianapolis, April 15-17. Liam Patrick O’Connor of Wyoming, Del., a senior at Caesar Rodney High School, will represent the Department of Delaware in the national competition.

Armbruster mails information featuring the department’s Oratorical Contest rules, location and time and his contact number to all Delaware high school counselors and history, drama and speech teachers during the first week of September. He also sends information to school board presidents and secretaries.