By Julia Barton DIGITAL PRODUCER
Six Lone Peak High School sophomores took the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center stage on Jan. 24 to recite 10-minute speeches they wrote focused on specific areas of the U.S. Constitution for the 9th Annual Capt. Richard Allgood Oratorical Contest with the Big Sky American Legion Post 99.
This year’s winner Claire Hoadley wrote her speech, “The Environment and its Place in the U.S. Constitution,” arguing that environmental freedom should have the same constitutional protection as free speech, meaning citizens should have a right to breathe clean air and live in a healthy environment.
Sons of the American Legion Post 99 member and LPHS teacher Tony Coppola has been assigning the speech contest to students for nearly a decade as part of his 10th grade U.S. government and political science class as a way for students to gain a deeper understanding of the Constitution.
“There’s the life skills of getting up on stage and having to speak in front of a group and just having to prepare themselves for that,” Coppola said in reference to the value of the competition. “It’s a really good way for [students] to showcase their knowledge of the Constitution and the connection between civic duties and responsibilities. That makes them a better citizen and prepares them for their future.”
The American Legion began the Oratorical Contest in 1938 to inspire high school students to develop knowledge and appreciation for the Constitution. The local competition is named in honor of the late Richard Allgood who died in 2020. Allgood was an exceptionally involved member of Post 99 and the Big Sky community.
“Allgood and I got together years ago and we started getting things going” Capt. Jack Hudspeth of Post 99 said. “Tony [Coppola] brought up that he wanted to do the contest and we just jumped on it.”
As the winner of the contest, Hoadley was awarded $500 from the Legion. Hoadley will move onto the district oratorical contest in Bozeman, the date for which has not yet been set. The second place winner, Freida Fabozzi, received $300 from the Legion; third place winner Aubrey Farr, $200. The other contestants were Grady Towle, Cyrus Coleman and Anna Masonic. In addition to the Legion’s prize money, the top three winners received medals, and all participants were given a Post 99 coin and $100 donated by Cindy and Greg Oswald for their hard work in preparing for the contest.
“I am impressed each year by the students that choose to participate in this competition. It’s no easy feat to prepare and deliver an 8-10 minute speech,” said judge Sara Sipe, who works for Outlaw Partners, the publisher of Explore Big Sky. “The speeches this year were particularly noteworthy for their originality and variety. These are exceptional young people. Their parents, educators and community should be proud.”