The American Legion, Department of Maryland



The American Legion's National High School Oratorical Contest was started to develop a better understanding and appreciation of the Constitution of the United States on the part of high school students. Other objectives of the contest include the development of leadership qualities, the ability to think and speak clearly and intelligently, and the preparation for acceptance of the duties and responsibilities, the rights and privileges of American citizenship. The contestants are expected to deliver a prepared oration, in addition to delivering a free-from oration on an assigned topic. Contestants compete first at the local level at their closest American Legion Post. The winners of the local contests advance to the County, District, then the Department - or state - levels. The winner of the Department contest advances to the National American Legion Oratorical Contest in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Spencer Harjung and National Commander Marty Conaster

The American Legion, Department of Maryland, has a long and proud history with The American Legion Oratorical Contest, having produced six winners since the contest's beginnings in 1938. Five of these winners have occurred just in the past 20 years.

  • Michael Begley - 1975
  • Dilip Paliath - 1988
  • Martin T. Kelly, Jr. - 1989
  • Kerri Ruttenberg - 1992
  • Erin L. Plettenberg - 1998
  • Spencer Harjung - 2008


The subject to be used for the Prepared Orations in the Oratorical Contest must be on some phase of the Constitution of the United States which will give emphasis to the attendant duties and obligations of a citizen to our government. The same subject and oration used in the Department Contest must be used in the National Contest. The prepared oration must be the original effort of each contestant and must not take up less than eight minutes or more that ten minutes for delivery. It must be delivered in the English language.


The Assigned Topic discourse must not consume less than three (3) minutes or more than five (5) minutes for delivery. The purpose of the Assigned Topic discourse is to test the speaker's knowledge of the subject, the extent of his research, and the ability to discuss the topic as related to the basic principles of government under the Constitution. All Contestants at each contest level are required to speak in the English language on the same Assigned Topic.

In the Prepared Oration, as well as in the Assigned Topic discourse, quotations must be indicated as such. Where quotations are more than ten words in length, the author's name must be given in the manuscript and cited orally.


Eligible participants in contest shall be citizens of or lawful permanent residents of the United States. All contestants must be bona fide students herein described as any student under the age of twenty (20) years on the date of the National Contest who is presently enrolled in a high school or junior high school (public, parochial, military, private or state accredited home school) in which the curriculum of said high school is considered to be of high school level, commencing with grade nine (9) and terminating with grade twelve (12). Students must be enrolled in high school or junior high school during the time of participation at any level of The American Legion National High School Oratorical Contest. Contestants must either be legally domiciled within or attend an educational institution within the Department (State) that they enter competition. Contestants can enter competition through only one Department


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