By Michael Wyly
Continued from Home Page.
Amanda Hays of Winthrop, Maine Central Institute junior, and Bossov Ballet Theatre ballerina, came home Valentine’s Day from the American Legion’s All-State Oratorical Competition with a five hundred dollar check in her purse. It was the prize for second place. The difference between first and second places was half a point!
“I would have loved to have taken first,” she said. “I’ll try again next year. But win or los
e it was a great experience and I’m Glad I participated.” The contest was held on the campus of Thomas College in Waterville.
Her topic was “Education: The Essential Ingredient to Government by the People.”
She demonstrated how without an educated population of voters, schooled in the Constitution, the guarantees that the document offers could not be upheld.
“It is the duty of the citizens of the United States to learn the Constitution and the principles that anchor it, and teach them to future generations,” she said. Amanda cited our country’s long history of literacy, dating from its founding, and how by the 18th century it exceeded that of Britain and Europe. “Without a firm grasp of our rights and how the Constitution functions to protect them, it would be easy for our freedoms to gradually slip away.”

Amanda Hays, a junior at MCI poses following her speech on the Constitution at Thomas College on February 14th.
Each speaker chose his or her own topic related to the U.S. Constitution and was required to speak 8 to 10 minutes without notes before an audience primarily of adults, including five Judges. Following the selected topic, each was called upon to speak on one of the Constitution’s amendments. They had to be ready. An audience member drew the assigned topic out of a hat. The topic Sunday was Amendment 8. It was up to the contestant to know that Amendment 8 is our guarantee against excessive bails and cruel and unusual punishments and then deliver a no-notes speech of 3 to 5 minutes.
“It was one of those contests where one or the other is going to get selected and you just have to accept the Judges’ decision,” said Harold Goodridge, Post Commander of Pittsfield’s American Legion Post 32. Amanda represented Pittsfield’s Post and the entire Maine District Number Ten, competing against six other speakers, each representing an American Legion District in Maine, all vying for the State Championship and the opportunity to compete for the National Championship in April. First Place was awarded to Oona Mackinnon-Hoban of Portland, representing District Two.
“Exposing youth to what the country is about, and why the Founders’ sacrifices in name of freedom are so important to us all, is a large part of the Legion’s mission”, said Goodridge. “Amanda’s speech was virtually flawless.”
“There can only be one first place but more than one success story,” said Michael Wyly, the Pittsfield Post’s Americanism Officer. “I am absolutely proud of her.” said Amanda’s Mother, Elise Hays. “It has been an enormous commitment to research, write, and practice all the speeches. Amanda learned a lot and deepened her understanding of the Constitution, which, ultimately is the goal of the program. “All of the participants are to be commended” said Amanda. “Many hours of work went into the preparation, but it was fun,” All of us who tried gained skills and self-confidence we will use for the rest of our lives”.
Amanda aspires to college after she graduates with M.C.I.’s Class of 2016. Then, continuing collegiate education to achieve a PhD in history and launch a career in teaching and writing. She is especially interested in the history of our country. Additional interests include classic literature, ancient history, and French.