In Carroll County, success in promoting local-level American Legion national high school oratorical contests will be measured by the number of area students who participate.
The first of two Maryland seminars about the annual event -- which will begin at the post level in February -- will be held for Legionnaires this Saturday at Gold Star Post 191 in Mount Airy.
"The purpose of the meetings is to encourage posts to hold the contests and to give necessary information," said Arthur Brett, district contest chairman in Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties.
Carroll County's American Legion Posts in Westminster, Hampstead, Taneytown, Sykesville and Mount Airy continue to be "very supportive" of the annual contests, said Mr. Brett.
The Legionnaires would like more students to take advantage of this exercise in Americanism, learn more about the Constitution and perfect their public speaking skills, said Mr. Brett.
"The key is to get high school students interested in the contests," he said. "The younger the better. The experience they gain is instrumental in furthering their chances at winning at higher levels in future years."
Legionnaires attending Saturday's seminar will be encouraged to visit high schools in their areas, said Mr. Brett. "Individual schools could do more to promote the contest and encourage and coach student participants," he said.
Participants in all levels of the 56th Annual American Legion National Oratorical Contest are required to give an eight- to 10-minute prepared oration on some aspect of the United States Constitution that emphasizes the responsibilities of citizenship.
Another requirement is a three- to five- minute extemporaneous discourse given by each participant on a subject drawn from selected Constitutional topics.
Contest winners will repeat their orations in a series of county, district, state, regional, sectional and national competitions.
The winners earn cash prizes as they progress through the contests, Mr. Brett said. The winner of the national contest will receive $18,000 in scholarship prize money, with $16,000 to be awarded for second place, $14,000 for third place, and $12,000 for fourth place.
Mount Airy resident Andrew Mason, a member of American Legion Post 191, is the state chairman of this year's contest.
"For the first 50 years there was only one Maryland national contest winner," said Mr. Brett. "In the last five years, Maryland has won the national contest three times and has had a third place winner one time."
Mr. Brett said teachers, students or parents who are interested in more information about the contest may call him at 795-6239.