Silver tongue earns teen oratory prize

August 08, 2002|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN THE FINAL rounds of the 2002 Joseph S. Rumbaugh Historical Oration Contest were over on the Fourth of July, Severna Park resident Greg Price was named top teen-age orator in the nation and winner of the $3,000 grand prize.

The 18-year old Severn School graduate can teach us all a thing or two about how to celebrate Independence Day.

Not only did he out-talk five other talented finalists in the annual contest sponsored by the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, but he came away from the patriotic competition with an increased appreciation of our nation's founding fathers, sons and brothers.

That's exactly the purpose of the SAR contest: to give high school sophomores, juniors and seniors the chance to explore the influence of the Revolutionary War on present-day America.

"The competition is extremely formal," said Jackie Baugh, who teaches English at Severn and directs the school's oratorical society. She said that the SAR competition is the best-run contest to which she sends students.

"It's amazing to see students compete at that level of effectiveness," said Baugh, whose teaching career spans 33 years, 12 of which have been at Severn. She also teaches English literature at Anne Arundel Community College.

Baugh was impressed with the quality of the orations given by the teens, who were equipped with portable microphones and spoke before an audience of several hundred.

"Their words were carefully crafted with well-chosen supporting gestures," she said.

To hone his winning form, Price practiced on the stage at Severn. He has high praise for his instructor. "She's a wonderful coach," he said.

He reminded her recently of how far a high school student can progress in four years when he brought in an old workbook from the days when she was his freshman English teacher. A few of the pages bore stickers Baugh had used as an incentive on the rare occasions when he remembered to bring his workbook to class. They had a good laugh.

This is the second year in a row that Greg, who is the son of Tim and Kate Price of Bluff Point in Severna Park, has entered the demanding competition. Speeches must be no longer than six minutes and no shorter than five. And in true oratory fashion, they must be memorized. Last year, he finished third in the finals.

This time, however, he wowed the judges with his speech, "Don't Tread on Me," a reference to the motto used by the Continental Army and Navy on their battle flags -- often accompanied by an illustration of a defiant rattlesnake.

"That motto is as equally applicable today as it was to the Revolutionary War, and to all of our wars in between," Price said.

In his speech, he talked about the American determination to fight when attacked, giving as examples the Battle of Tripoli in 1801, the Persian Gulf war and the present-day war on terrorism.

His entry spoke to the heart of the 26,000-member organization founded in 1889 on the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of George Washington. All SAR members are descendants of men who fought for America's freedom, whether by signing the Declaration of Independence, serving in the Continental Congress, fighting at Valley Forge or in any of the many other ways. There are more than 470 SAR chapters around the world. Members point with pride to Theodore Roosevelt, who signed the club's charter.

"Greg understands the difference between written and oral style," said Baugh, whose daughter, Christine, was a national finalist in the 1999 and 2000 SAR competitions.

"That's a real skill," she added. "Winning has been a crescendo ending to his four-year speaking career at Severn."

Price will leave a brother and two sisters at home later this month when he attend Tufts University in Massachusetts. He plans to study "something liberal-artsy."

For a young man who likes to ski, dislikes hot weather and has relatives there, the choice of a school in New England was as easy as writing his name with a sparkler in the night sky.

Information on the Joseph S. Rumbaugh Historical Oration Contest: www.sar.org.

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