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Rugby High students receive cash prizes in oratorical contest

By Sue Sitter - | Dec 26, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT Contestants Haley Mayer, left, and Madison Corum pose with their awards with oratorical contest organizer and Rugby American Legion Post Commander John Gustafson.

Two Rugby High School freshmen received cash prizes after competing in the American Legion High School Oratorical Contest held at Rugby’s First Lutheran Church on Saturday, Dec. 19.

Madison Corum and Haley Mayer, both sponsored by the Clarence Larson Post #23 of the American Legion in Rugby, represented a district that includes the Rugby and Leeds area.

Mayer’s speech on the 19th Amendment of the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote, won the top prize in the contest.

Mayer expressed gratitude for the “hard work” women put into giving her the right to vote.

“This makes me appreciate the Constitution even more,” Mayer said.

Corum chose the Bill of Rights as her topic.

The contest was divided into two parts. In the first part, contestants delivered speeches on topics relating to the U.S. Constitution, eight to 10 minutes in length. In the second part, contestants gave impromptu speeches on four possible Constitution-related topics chosen at random. Contest rules required the impromptu speeches to last between three to five minutes.

Both students drew the duties of the president of the United States as their impromptu speech topic.

“They have five minutes to prepare,” said John Gustafson, Post #23 commander and local contest organizer.

District #3 Chair Dan Stave of the Leeds American Legion Post, presented the awards to Mayer and Corum. “We really want to see you girls here again next year,” he said.

Mayer received a certificate, pin and checks totaling $600 for her first-place win.

Corum also received a certificate, pin and a prize totaling $400.

“Writing my speech was my favorite part,” Corum said. “I learned more from writing it. My favorite part was thanking everybody at the end.”

Corum said she hoped to speak in next year’s contest. She said she’s considering a career in the military training dogs after she graduates high school.

“My favorite part of my speech was talking about the struggles women have had getting to the point where they get the same rights as everyone else,” Mayer said. “Just getting to discuss that subject was amazing.”

Mayer said the American Legion’s contest “gives me the opportunity to get more experience for college (scholarships). Now I don’t have to worry as much about financial aid because I’m getting an amazing opportunity with this.”

“I’ve actually had my mind set on a career since second grade,” Mayer said. “I want to become a general practitioner at a hospital.”

Mayer will travel to Park River in January to participate in another contest round for the North Dakota Eastern Division. The winner of that contest will compete at the state level, then travel to the national contest in Indianapolis in April 2021. Winners who advance to the national level have a chance to collect up to $30,000 in scholarship money.

“We at Post #23 are extremely proud of our two participants,” Gustafson said in a written statement later. “They both did an excellent job with Haley being declared the winner. She will move on to the Eastern Division contest held Jan. 16 at 1 p.m. But in our eyes, they are both winners just by being willing to compete in the contest.”

Gustafson said the contest usually has more levels of competition.

“This year’s contest was different in that both the local post and district contests were combined,” he said. “Usually, these are two separate contests at different times and locations. This came at the suggestion of (Stave) in the interest of safety, saving time and efficiency.”

Gustafson said the solution fit this year’s situation better since the Rugby contestants were the only two in the district.

“We at local Post #23 would like to publicly thank both Haley and Madison for being participants in this contest,” Gustafson added. “Without them, there would not have been a contest. It is our hope that many more students will want to participate in future contests as Haley and Madison did in this year’s contest.”

“Since both young ladies are freshmen, we look forward to their continued participation in future contests as well,” Gustafson added.

Students in grades 9-12 in public, private or home schools can enter the American Legion Oratorical Contest. For more information, contact Gustafson at (701) 681-9329.

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