L to R: Hadley Butler, 1stPlace, Cannon Parsons, 3rdPlace, Cannon Martin, 2ndPlace. Photo: Fred Messer

In the auditorium of the Green Mountain Valley School (GMVS) campus, the American Legion held its District 3 High School Constitutional speech contest, Saturday, February 17, 2024. GMVS sophomore Hadley Butler, daughter of Sarah and William Butler, Waitsfield, was sponsored by Montpelier American Legion Post 3. Butler took first place and will be a contestant at the Department of Vermont Finals, Saturday, March 16, at the Barre Unitarian Universalist Church.  This event is open to the public. Audience must be seated by 10 a.m.


Also competing were Barre Post 10-sponsored party Cannon Martin, a GMVS junior, daughter of Bowen Holden and Charlie Martin, Waitsfield. Sponsored by Harry N. Cutting Waterbury Post 59 was Cannon Parsons, a GMVS junior, son of Christopher and Annie Parsons, Waterbury.

Each contestant began by presenting a prepared oration and an assigned topic to their sponsoring post in early February.  These speeches are scored on many factors including how long the delivery was, originality, content and speaking skills. The speeches must address some aspect of the U.S. Constitution with emphasis on the duties and obligations of a citizen to their government. All speeches are done without a microphone, podium, or notes.

For the district contest on February 17, each contestant did the same individual prepared oration, a timed speech of 8-10 minutes. The second phase of the contest was the assigned topic, a timed speech of 3-5 minutes.  The assigned topic is randomly selected from four possible amendments published in May 2023.  All three contestants spoke on the same assigned topic per contest rules.

The purpose of the assigned topic is to test the speakers’ 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.

Butler will be one of three finalists to compete at the Department of Vermont American Legion Oratorical Finals Saturday, March 16, 2024, at the Barre Unitarian Universalist Church. She will be contending for a $1,500 top prize.

At the scheduled May National Finals, each state winner who is certified and participates in the quarterfinals will receive a $2,000 scholarship. Each quarterfinal speaker who participates in the semi-finals, but does not advance to the finals, will receive an additional $2,000 to pursue education beyond high school. In the finals, first place receives $25,000, second and third place receives $22,500 and $20,000 respectively. There will be 52 students, one from each state and American Legions in France and Puerto Rico.

The judges were Chris Merchant from Waitsfield Champlain Telecom, Fred Messer Mad River American Legion Post 75 and Norman Scolaro, Sons of the American Legion, Montpelier Squadron 3.