To enter the American Legion High School Oratorical Contest, participants must be U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Contestants must be students under 20 years old on the national contest date, enrolled in grades 9-12 at any high school, and either reside within or attend an educational institution in the participating department. They can compete through only one department, and early high school graduates are eligible if not enrolled in higher education.
Prepared Oration Guidelines:
Contestants must deliver a speech on a Constitution-related topic, emphasizing citizen duties and obligations to the government. The same topic and oration must be used at both the department and national levels.
While waiting in the first holding room, contestants can have a copy of their oration. Quotations exceeding 10 words must include the author's name. Short foreign language phrases are acceptable, but the majority must be in English. Singing is prohibited, except for quoted song verses with proper attribution.
The speaking order is determined by drawing. Contestants cannot use notes, amplification, a lectern, or props. Neither contestants nor the audience can use electronic devices.
Speeches must last 8-10 minutes for prepared orations and 3-5 minutes for assigned topics. An official timer with cards indicating time is used. Contestants must remain in a private room until their turn and return to a soundproof waiting room after speaking.
Attire and Travel:
Contestants must wear business attire without displaying previous awards. Travel and lodging expenses for department winners and chaperones are covered, but The American Legion doesn't assume liability for personal injury or property damage during travel.
Tabulation and Judging:
Department finals have at least three tabulators. Judges' scorecards are confidential and become property of The American Legion National Headquarters. Five judges, chosen for impartiality, evaluate speeches independently.
Judges penalize speeches not emphasizing citizen duties and obligations to the government, with up to a 10-point penalty for not discussing the Constitution. Time violations result in one-point penalties per minute.
Television and Radio:
Live broadcasts, filming, and taping are allowed with specific conditions, including consistent lighting and no interference with contestants or scheduled contest times. The American Legion is not financially obligated without prior approval.