Andrew Dykstal from Lafayette, Ind., won an $18,000 college scholarship.

Hoosier student wins 2009 Oratoricals

High school senior Andrew Dykstal from Lafayette, Ind., won an $18,000 college scholarship and first place in The American Legion National High School Oratorical Scholarship Program in Indianapolis April 18-19.Caroline Heydinger of Brattleboro, Vt., earned a $16,000 college scholarship with a second-place finish, while Werner Ferrone of Homosassa, Fla., earned a $14,000 scholarship and finished third.Dykstal, who attends Aldersgate Academy in Lafayette, started the weekend as one of 53 department champions in the 72nd annual program. Sponsored by American Legion Post 38 in Lafayette, he won the contest after three rounds of intense competition.In his speech, “A More Perfect Union,” Dykstal spoke of how the Constitution only works with an active, vigilant citizenry: “Unless the people are actively involved in pursuing the welfare of the nation, our government is like a bicycle without a competent rider – unstable and inclined to wander.“Our nation’s founders designed our government to meet a specific set of objectives. Whether or not this government succeeds is dependent upon our conduct as citizens.”Following the event, Dykstal spoke to The American Legion Online Update:Q: How do you feel about getting through all the competition to finally win first place?A: I’m very pleased. I’ve been working on this presentation a long, long time. It’s an honor to have competed in such an excellent program, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know all the other contestants.Q: Who have you leaned on for support?A: My parents, most definitely. My mom has been very patient week after week. She faithfully drove me to our church sanctuary every weekend to practice. Both Mom and Dad have been very supportive every step of the way, ever since I started working on this last November.Q: What do you say to the folks at American Legion Post 38?A: Thank you. Thank you profusely. I cannot say enough. Post 38 has been incredibly supportive. They let me go to the post to practice in front of them, and I enjoyed that experience.Q: Do you have any words of advice to students thinking about entering the contest?A: I’d warn them that it is a lot of work, but it is definitely worth it. It is an experience that I will remember forever.Watch Dykstal’s award-winning oration on LegionTV.