American Legion Post 99 member Kenny “Cuz” Alley and Sons of the American Legion member and Master of Ceremonies Tony Coppola award Ella Henslee first place and Avery Dickerson second place in the Oratorical Contest. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

Behold the bright minds

Sixth Annual American Legion Oratorical Contest

It was an observation of democracy; an ode to the shaping of this nation and the impact of laws on its citizens. It was also an event signifying hope, Master of Ceremonies Tony Coppola pointed-out, because America’s hope lies with its youth. In its sixth year, the American Legion Post 99 Oratorical Contest is a polished event made possible by volunteers, including American Legion and Sons of the American Legion members as well as volunteer judges from throughout the community.

Lone Peak High School students Max Romney, Jessie Bough, Avery Dickerson and Ella Henslee stood before a masked and socially distanced audience and shared prepared – and memorized – speeches nearly 10 minutes in length on pertinent issues. Some of the subject matter was quite personal to the competitors. Exploring subjects like the complexities of the second amendment and the current division of American politics and society, the students spoke eloquently and purposefully.

Dickerson, the second place winner, said the students started the project right after Christmas break, so they had a little under a month to prepare. Still uncertain about her career path, she said all she really wants to do when she grows up is to help people. Her 78 year old grandfather Frank Quijada sat with her parents in the audience.

“She took after me,” he quipped before saying she was just “wonderful.”

“It’s a great bunch of kids,” he said.

Henslee, the first place winner and Dickerson exited the stage amidst a flurry of congratulations from judges and attendees. Romney and Bough both ran from the stage after their presentations to the basketball court and were not able to be photographed at the end of the event.

It took about five years of solid effort to get off the ground, Kenny “Cuz” Alley explained, and it was something that he and the late great Richard “Dick” Allgood sought to make happen. Jeremy Harder noted that it has been wonderful to see the event mature and to watch the kids evolve into young adults with vibrant minds. They are capable of doing what many adults cannot, he said.

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