VUHS senior wins American Legion speaking contest

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Vergennes Union High School senior Alyse Beauchemin recently won the Vermont American Legion Oratorical Contest where contestants are required to speak on some aspect of the U.S. Constitution with emphasis on the duties and obligations of a citizen to our government. She is the first student to take top Vermont honors for three consecutive years.
With three contestants, the March 11 contest was held in the Yasinski Education Center at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in White River Junction. Beauchemin will represent the state of Vermont at the American Legion National High School Oratorical Contest in Indianapolis on April 21-23. She will be among other high school students representing American Legion departments from every state, France, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
The 17-year-old impressed the judges with her 10-minute prepared speech, “The U.S. Constitution: Unity and Hope in Times of Polarization.” All contestants must present their speeches without the benefit of a podium, amplification or notes.
For the randomly assigned topic, all contestants spoke for 3-5 minutes on the 17th Amendment, adopted in 1913. The 17th Amendment established the popular election of U.S. Senators by the vote of the states’ citizens. The amendment supersedes Article I, §3, Clauses 1 and 2 of the Constitution, under which senators were elected by state legislatures. It also allows for state legislatures to permit their governors to make temporary appointments until a special election can be held.
Abigail Ham, rising junior at Lyndon Institute, placed second with her speech, “The Privileges and Responsibilities of Citizenship.” Ham was sponsored by Lyndon Post No. 30 and received an award of $300. She lives in Sheffield with her parents, Sarah and Patrick Ham, three sisters and two brothers.
Third place and $200 was awarded to Jasper Goodman, a rising senior at Harwood Union High School. His sponsoring American Legion post was Harry N. Cutting Post No 59 of Waterbury. The focus of Goodman’s speech was “Electoral Flaws and Fixes.” He plans to pursue an education in journalism. Goodman is the son of David Goodman and Sue Minter and lives in Waterbury Center.
Department Commander John Heald congratulated all the students for having reached the final level in the State Contest. In his remarks, Commander Heald reflected that the influence of knowledgeable young people like these orators would inspire the youth of our country to become responsible citizens.
First place earned Beauchemin the $1,000 award. Beauchemin’s future plans are to pursue a career with NASA. Beauchemin lives with her parents, James Beauchemin and Amy Foley, and a younger sister in Vergennes.
On the National level, The American Legion Life Insurance Fund provides scholarship money for the program. The first place winner takes home $18,000 and the next two finishers receive $16,000 and $14,000 respectively. Each Department (State) winner who is certified into and participates in the quarterfinals of the National Contest will receive a $1,500 scholarship. Each first round winner who advances to and participates in the semifinals, but does not advance to the Final Round, will receive an additional $1,500 scholarship to pursue education beyond high school.
The American Legion Oratorical Contest and the National Speech and Debate Association have combined their expertise and formed a lasting relationship that provide additional opportunities for students interested in forensic arts. The top three finishers in the National Oratorical Contest will earn a berth in “Original Oration” — a category featured in the National Speech and Debate Tournament in June 2017. There, the champions will present a 10-minute speech on a topic of their choice and compete for more than $200,000 in college scholarships.
The High School Oratorical Contest is one of several programs supported by The American Legion Department of Vermont to help young people get the higher education they need to participate in tomorrow’s society. Students, parents and teachers interested in scholarship opportunities available through The American Legion should visit the American Legion website www.legion.org/oratorical or contact Department Headquarters at (802) 223-7131.

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