Post 555 hosts oratorical contest at PHS

Published 2:50 pm Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Aaron Wilkes wins American Legion Matthew Blount Post 555’s Oratorical Contest at Pelham High School Jan. 26. (Reporter photo/Jessa Pease)

Aaron Wilkes wins American Legion Matthew Blount Post 555’s Oratorical Contest at Pelham High School Jan. 26. (Reporter photo/Jessa Pease)

By JESSA PEASE / Staff Writer

PELHAM— To discuss how the amendments and articles of the Constitution still apply today, two Pelham High School students participated in the American Legion Matthew Blount Post 555 Oratorical Contest Jan. 26.

Senior Aaron Wilkes took first place at the competition, followed by sophomore Mason Herrington. Both students presented two speeches related to the Constitution to a room full of judges and guests.

“It’s called maturity, and a lot of schools do not put an emphasis behind speaking like they did when I came along,” Post 555 Commander Barry Blount said of the contest. “There is a two fold, win-win on this. Kids, when they got for job interviews, if they don’t have self-confidence, it doesn’t matter what your grades were.”

Each student first gave an eight- to 10-minute speech. Wilkes spoke on the history and foundation of the Constitution, and Herrington spoke on Article 4, Section 4, incorporating the events of 9/11.

From there, Post 555 leaders randomly selected one of three possible topics for the second speech. Each speaker was given about five minutes to gather his thoughts before giving a three- to five-minute speech.

The chosen topic had to do with Amendment 26, which gave anyone age 18 or older the right to vote. This amendment came as a result of the Vietnam War when soldiers could be drafted at age 18, but could not vote until age 21.

On senior night at Pelham High, Post 555 will present Wilkes with a $200 scholarship and Herrington will receive $100. Wilkes will also give a short speech at Post 555’s Feb. 4 meeting, and will have the opportunity to drop the hockey puck with Mayor Gary Waters at the Alabama vs. Navy game Feb. 6.

This event was even more special for Blount, because his son, Matthew, was a graduate of Pelham High School. Matthew passed away, and Blount said this event is one of the ways he keeps Matthew’s legacy alive.

“Matt had one of the biggest hearts in the world,” Blount said. “His problem was, he thought everything was supposed to be fair. He couldn’t understand why everybody wasn’t treated the same way.”

This is the 79th year that American Legion posts have held the oratorical contest across the country, giving out more than $3 million in scholarships.

Wilkes will move on to the district competition, which will be held at the Pelham Senior Center Feb. 20, where he will compete against winners from about 12 other American Legion posts.

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