For many, the thought of giving a presentation in a class is sure to give bare arms goosebumps and make a stomach queasy. Speaking in front of a crowd is undoubtedly one of the top fears of Americans, but would you do it if it meant scholarship money?
Now, here’s the catch: compose and memorize five speeches about the Constitution, totaling to about 30 minutes.
Seniors Thomas Kilcullen, Tanya Shahi and Ryan Zunker all competed at the Department of Illinois Oratorical Contest in March, with Shahi placing third, Zunker second and Kilcullen first.
This was Shahi’s first oratorical experience, and as a senior, she recognizes the prevalence of public speaking in her future.
“Being my first official speaking competition, it’s only uphill from here. I look forward to putting myself out there in college and exploring similar competitions in the public speaking realm,” she said.
The American Legion competition is an opportunity for high school students to research and learn more about the Constitution and the rights it gives to citizens. Zunker finds this to be interesting and chose to speak about equality in America.
“I spoke on the idea of freedom in America and how the passing of amendments to our Constitution have gradually given us more freedom. I feel passionate about this topic because most people don’t realize they are the ones who truly hold the power,” he said.
Kilcullen advanced to the State round of the competition and took first place, leading to his advancement to Nationals where he placed in the quarterfinals.
“I poured in hundreds of hours of research, speech writing, and speech practice before I have a finished product. I spoke on the importance of acting on our education and how defending our Constitution today requires much more than a competent constituency, but rather a population that can fearlessly defend their liberties,” he said.
All of the students put in extensive time researching and rehearsing, which proved to be an edifying experience for the young orators.
“Like anyone, I was and still am extremely nervous speaking in front of others. I have found that through competitions like these, I can develop a talent that will help me for the rest of my life,” Kilcullen said.