Jan. 25 began with a winter weather advisory and reports of another pending snowstorm. The temperature was extremely cold and the day appeared to be fraught with another round of cold, winter weather for the eastern half of the county.
The resounding recommendation was to "stay inside" and off the roads if at all possible. This doom and gloom report did not dampen the fortitude of young Americans who appeared before judges, time keepers, moderators, parents and visiting guests at the 77th annual American Legion Oratorical Contest held at the H.W. Daniels Post 29 on Railroad Avenue in Elkins.
What would draw young people as well as their parents to brave the elements to participate and attend this event? For the opportunity afforded to these young adults to compete for scholarship money and to be heard.
Highland Adventist School student Lauren Michelle Spears won the American Legion Oratorical Contest.
The American Legion holds this contest yearly across the nation. Participants speak about the Constitution as a prepared oration for no less than eight and no longer than 10 minutes.
Then, each contestant is given one of four selected Constitutional Amendments to speak about for a duration of no less than three minutes and no longer than five minutes.
Participants prepare by researching and developing their speeches for the assigned topic section of the competition without knowing until the contest day which of the four will be chosen. The American Legion Oratorical Contest is open to all public, private and religious school-age students from the 9-12 grades.
This year's first-place winner was Lauren Michelle Spears from the Highland Adventist School in Elkins. Lauren is a 9th-grade student at Highland.
During her prepared oration on the Constitution, Spears reminded the audience about past defining moments that called upon Americans to remember their responsibility as citizens of this great country as well as the importance of educating ourselves about our government and our individual responsibility as citizens. She gave some frightening low statistics concerning how uninformed and uninvolved we can complacently become about our voting rights and how our government operates.
Congratulations to Soears on her dynamic presentation and her first-place win at the annual oratorical competition. She now travels to Romney to the Section C competition.
This will potentially move her toward the state competition and the opportunity for a $1,500 scholarship and the chance to represent the state at the national competition in Indiana.
There, the winners can receive up to $18,000 in scholarship monies.
Contact your local American Legion representative if you would like more information about the Oratorical Contest.