Beauchemin wins speech competition

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College Advancement hosted the Vermont American Legion Oratorical Speech Finals on Saturday, Mar. 5. Representing District 1 was Alyse Beauchemin, a junior at Vergennes Union High School; District 4, Charlie Cacciatore, a senior at Fair Haven Union High School; and District 5, Mateo Ellerson of Hartford High School. The students had reached this level by first competing at their sponsoring American Legion post and winning their respective district competitions to earn a place in the March 5 finals.
By the contest rules, each student was required to present an original prepared oration of 8-10 minutes on some aspect of the Constitution, with emphasis on a citizen’s duties and obligations to the government.
Then, a topic from four known amendments was assigned 5 minutes before presentation, and competitors were required to speak on it for 3-5 minutes. Each student spoke on Amendment 8, prohibiting the federal government from imposing excessive fines or cruel and unusual punishment.
The purpose of the assigned topic discourse is to test the speaker’s knowledge of the subject, the extent of his or her research, and the ability to discuss the topic as related to the basic principles of government under the Constitution.
First place garnered $1,000 and went to Beauchemin. This is the third year Beauchemin has competed in the oratorical program. Second place, and $300, went to Cacciatorre, and third place went to Ellerson, who earned $200.
Beauchemin now will compete in the national finals in April in Indianapolis, Ind. The top prizes in the national contest are $18,000 for first place, $16,000 for second and $14,000 for third. Travel expenses of the student and a chaperone are paid for by the American Legion.
Judges for the contest were former Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas; Richard Farmer, Vermont Department Legislative Advisory Committee; Jim Keyes, vice president, Middlebury College Advancement fundraising; Beth Robinson, Vermont Supreme Court associate justice; and Norm Scolaro, Sons of the Legion Department finance officer.
Vermont Department has had an Oratorical Contest for 63 years. Nationally, the contest began in 1938. Past department winners have included Frank Mahady, for which the Addison County courthouse is named. Stephen Farnsworth, 1979 VUHS graduate, won the honors twice. His political commentary has appeared in a wide range of media outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, PBS NewsHour, Politico, C-SPAN and BBC World.
Another two-time winner of the Vermont Department Finals is Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Cashman, who graduated 30 years ago from Essex High School. He won an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy from U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy. The highly decorated Cashman served with the Vermont Air National Guard, based in South Burlington from 1998 to 2005 and is currently assigned to the Pentagon.
Editor’s note: This article was provided by Karlene DeVine.

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