McLean, Virginia. December 9, 2018 — Post 270 of the American Legion hosted an Oratorical Contest on December 9th in McLean. Five high school students, including Jena Musmar, a sophomore from King Abdullah Academy, participated. In fact, about half of the audience consisted of students from the King Abdullah Academy.
Each contestant had to deliver a memorized 8-10 minute speech on the U.S. Constitution, with emphasis on the duties and responsibilities of citizenship. In addition, each one had to give a 3-5 minute speech on one of four possible amendments chosen randomly from a hat, meaning that each contestant had to prepare and memorize five speeches in advance for this contest.
As the Master of Ceremonies for the contest and as a U.S. History teacher at King Abdullah Academy, Mr. Sarver said that he “can personally attest to the first-rate speeches by all five contestants. All of them demonstrated confidence and looked like trial lawyers successfully arguing in front of a jury.”
Rosy Sultana, a senior at McLean High School, won the American Legion Gold Medal and will now compete at the 17th District Oratorical Contest in Fairfax against winners of contests in other communities in January. Sultana impressed the judges with a speech titled "Our Constitution, Ours to Keep in Motion!"
For Jena Musmar, this was her first experience competing in a speech contest. She gave a rousing speech on political parties titled “Red and Blue Make Purple.” Although she did not win, she said that she was really glad she competed, and that she “got to see what it was like to speak in front of an audience that knows what you’re talking about.”
When asked how she prepared for the contest, Musmar said that she brainstormed her ideas, created outlines, and reviewed the judges’ scorecards (similar to a teacher’s rubric), and one week before the contest, she typed out her speeches.
Musmar plans to compete again. To her, “the goal wasn’t necessarily to win, but to practice public speaking and to meet the standards of a good speech.” She absolutely met those standards.
Jena said that next time, she will “definitely start two weeks sooner – one for writing and one for practicing it. Nerves was a big part of it, but my biggest issue was time management.”
After being asked what she would like to tell other students who are considering competing in the future, Musmar said “Practice, practice, practice - and you have to show emotion. If you don’t show emotion, it doesn’t matter how good your speech is. It will never matter.”
Since 1938, The American Legion High School Oratorical Scholarship Program has encouraged the nation’s high school students to study the U.S. Constitution and to hone their public speaking skills.