High school student wins first in American Legion contest
Aryaman Khandelwal is not old enough to vote in this year’s presidential election.
But the Parkland High School sophomore is probably more informed than many adults who will cast ballots this fall.
Khandelwal, 15, won this year’s American Legion Oratorical Contest for the Eastern section of Pennsylvania.
The contest took place Feb. 13 at Jim Thorpe High School.
“I really like how the American government is set up, and one of the components of that is the American Constitution,” Khandelwal said. I also like public speaking, so that’s two of my interests put together in one competition.”
The annual oratorical contest requires high school students to give two prepared speeches about the U.S. Constitution and how the 235-year-old document relates to society today.
“You have to be really good to win this contest, a lot of practice goes into it,” said Harry J. Wynn III of Post 314, Lehighton, who moderated the contest.
Three finalists took the stage at Jim Thorpe Area High School.
In the first round of the contest, they had to give an eight-minute speech on any topic, as long as it pertained to the Constitution.
Khandelwal discussed how U.S. citizens have become disillusioned with the idea “the people” and “the government” are one in the same — and the result is people are apathetic toward elections and government.
He said some of the content came from what he learned in school.
“The majority of it came from the Republican primary election and how people talk about it,” he said.
The second portion of the contest was more stringent.
The finalists each prepared responses to four prompts. Then, the judges selected one and the finalists were then required to give a four-minute speech on that topic.
The topic was Article 1, Section 9, paragraph 2 of the document “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the Public Safety may require it.”
Khandelwal admitted even he had to look that one up before composing his response — which had to do mainly with the legal issues surrounding Guantanamo Bay prison.
As winner, he will have the chance to compete for scholarships worth thousands of dollars at the state level.
Khandelwal said he does not know what he plans on doing after high school yet, but he’s confident public speaking will help him reach whatever that goal may be.
“A lot of people like history, but public speaking is something that a lot of high schoolers don’t get exposure to,” he said. “They’re afraid of it because they haven’t really done it ever.”