California, Kentucky and Minnesota youth earn spot in Oratorical finals
High school orators compete in The American Legion's 81st annual National Oratorical Contest in Indianapolis on April 14, 2018. Photo by Clay Lomneth/The American Legion

California, Kentucky and Minnesota youth earn spot in Oratorical finals

Three high school orators advanced through two rounds of competition to claim a spot in The American Legion’s 81st annual National Oratorical finals, “A Constitutional Speech Contest.”

Nathan York of National City, Calif., Carlissa Frederich of Paducah, Ky., and Emily Parker of Lino Lakes, Minn., will compete Sunday at 10 a.m. Eastern for a chance to win first place and an $18,000 scholarship. Second and third place will earn $16,000 and $14,000, respectively. Watch the finals on Facebook live at

The contest got underway Saturday in Indianapolis with quarterfinals where 53 American Legion department Oratorical youth champions were separated into nine groups to present their prepared oration on the U.S. Constitution and speak on an assigned topic discourse – a phase of the Constitution selected from Articles and Sections – in front of judges, Legion Family members and family. York, Frederich and Parker were among the top nine orators to advance to semifinals where they edged out the competition to become a top three finalists.

York, 17 years old, is the sixth sibling in his family to be sponsored by American Legion Post 255 in National City to compete in the Legion’s Oratorical Contest; however, he is the only one to make it to the national level. The achievement is one he attributes to maturity, support from family and Post 255, and a passion for speech and debate. 

“Public speaking is our sport. We see the benefits of being able to communicate as being invaluable for the rest of your life in all the areas that you use it,” said York, who is being sponsored by Post 255 to attend American Legion California Boys State this summer. “And the scholarship money is great because you have to pay for college or wherever you’re going to go. We also love The American Legion and veterans … they have been very supportive.”

Like York, 18-year-old Parker isn’t new to the Oratorical Contest, but it is her first time to compete at the national level. Seeing her state announced as a top three finalist was exciting for Parker, who attributes her success in the program to participating in other speech competitions over the past year.

“It has given me a lot more experience and that experience has taught me how to use gestures and use facial expressions and just being able to apply that to this speech in particular has been really beneficial,” said Parker, who is sponsored by Post 566. “Being here at the national competition has been a great experience. It’s nice having these like-minded body of students that you can connect with and all the Legion members who are supporting you … it’s really a fun weekend and environment to be in.”

The American Legion’s Oratorical Contest is Frederich’s first time ever to participate in a speech competition. “I thought it would be an incredible opportunity to express my gratitude for the country, to learn a lot more about it. I had no idea what I was getting into but it was so worth it and I’ve learned so much,” said 17-year-old Frederich, who is sponsored by Post 73 in Murray, Ky., the same post that sponsored her brother, Zachary, his senior year for the Oratorical Contest.

Frederich said the experience she has received from the Oratorical Contest “has been life-changing. Going into this I’ve developed so much perseverance, just grit trying to get to the end and trying to make some good speeches. And then as a citizen, my love for the country has deepened a desire to be involved and understanding of current issues … just a good American citizen who wants to conserve the founding principles of the country has greatly increased.”