MOUNT MORRIS — Perhaps now more than ever it was imperative that these young voices be heard. 


The American Legion held its 80 Annual Oratorical Contest at Mount Morris Central. The four high school contestants who competed for the zone 5 finals on Feb. 11 were Calley Knapp, of Dundee; Joshua Thomson, of Chili; Emily Blanchard, of Albion; and Melissa Barnosky, of Albion. Barnosky won second place. Blanchard won first place, and will be heading to the Department of New York Finals on March 11 at Sand Creek Middle School in Albany. If Blanchard wins the state finals she will have a chance for the National Finals held April 22 and 23 in Indianapolis.



“These four young people compete for thousands of dollars,” said Lee Brusino, American Legion zone 5 chairman. “They will present a prepared speech on the constitution and the duty of the citizens. They each must give an 8 to 10 minute speech, if they go over they get one point taken off. Afterwards they will get an assigned topic and have three to five minutes to present that speech, with one point taken off it they go over. These young people do their best possible job.”


Barnosky gave a speech entitled, “Constitutional Rights and Duties of American Citizens.” It is about how far we have come in 200 years.


“America has done a good job working together in the past 200 years,” she said. “This is why we are called the United States of America. Unifying is the only way we can work it out. We gained independence for all of the Americans.”


Barnosky added that the United States Constitution has been compared to the English Magna Carta created in 1215.


“The biggest difference between them is who has rights,” she said. “The United States Constitution said that all of Americans have rights. It created fair laws for the people. Our first president George Washington called it a little short of a miracle. This is all tied to modern events.”


“America has always stood by freedom of religion, it shapes lives of many, we are entitled to our opinion,” Barnosky continued. “We should be proud to live in a peaceful place. We need to continue to do what we have done for decades, and stand up for what is right.”


Blanchard gave a speech entitled, “The Future of Our Nation.” This touches on the importance of voting and having your voice heard.


“The future of our nation as a teenager is important,” she said. “It is important for me to know the United States Constitution, and know my duties as an American. I believe voters need to be educated on what the Constitution is. Young people should be excited about voting and what it means.”


Blanchard talked about justice for African American voters and women voters, and how it took so long in our history to make it happen.


“Our main focus was freeing blacks and giving them the right to vote, so women’s rights were pushed aside,” she said. “It took nearly 50 years (after black males) for women to be able to vote. We see how that affected this election. We had a woman fight in this election. We need to be aware of our rights.”


The last time our voices were threatened to be silenced was in the Vietnam War, Blanchard mentioned.


“Students wore black bands on their wrists to protest the Vietnam War,” she said. “They were told to take them off. These students stood up for what they believed in and won. We still need to fight for what we believe in. The future of our nation lives in our youth.”


Thomson did a speech entitled, “The Freedom of Our Nation: United States Constitution.” This touches on the importance of our Constitution on the world.


“I want to protect and support the Constitution,” he said. “The Constitution become the foundation that made this country great. The federal government was powerful enough to protect the people. Not one person become too powerful. The Constitution impacted the entire world. Other countries were inspired by it, and formed their own versions. They fought their way to freedom just like the United States of America.”


Knapp gave a speech called, “It’s Just A Color.” This was about making people equal.


“All men are not created equal,” she said. “Our founding fathers rushed the document, and there were articles left off. If you were 21 years old, white, and male you had all of the power. Our country was made in a horrific way. We drove the Native Americans from their land. Men are not equal in this country. They didn’t want the south to have the power, and the south did not want to pay taxes on their slaves. The common person had very little say in the government.”


Each contestant had to give a three to five minute speech on the chosen topic of article sixteen. This had to do with taxes, and how important it is for all of us to pay them so we can rebuild our country.


All of the contestants were thanked for their impressive efforts to explain the importance of the constitution.


“They are as strong as ever,” Brusino said. “I am very pleased with all of them, and very proud of them. They spent hours in preparation to get here, and they are all winners.”