Pittsburg student wins statewide oratorical contest

Jonathan Riley
Morning Sun
Owen Miller, a junior at Pittsburg High School and winner of the American Legion’s statewide oratorical contest, left, with Allen Eichhorn, adjutant for the Pittsburg American Legion Post 64.

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Owen Miller, a junior at Pittsburg High School, won the American Legion’s statewide oratorical, or public speaking, contest this month. He also won a significantly increased amount of scholarship money because the national competition he would have qualified for was cancelled due to COVID-19. 

To get to the statewide competition, Miller first had to win the local contest and a district-level competition in Erie against students sponsored by American Legion posts in Erie and Howard. Competitors in the American Legion’s oratorical contest are judged by both the content and the delivery of their speeches. 

“So, at our individual tournament here in Pittsburg, I talked about the Supreme Court, at district I talked about the 22nd Amendment, and then at state I talked about the State of the Union address that happens every year,” Miller said. 

There was no prize money for the Pittsburg competition, but Miller got $500 for his district-level win. In a normal year his state-level victory would have won him another $750, but because the national competition was cancelled this year due to the pandemic he walked away with much more. The much larger pot of money, normally set aside for the national-level winners, was divided among all state competitions, and Miller received an additional $5,000, giving him a total of $6,250 in scholarship money. 

“This is a lot of money in this oratorical contest,” said Allen Eichhorn, adjutant for the Pittsburg American Legion Post 64, who added that he has been trying to promote the competition for years, but has had trouble finding interested students.  

Miller said he hasn’t yet decided where he wants to go to college or what he wants to major in. 

“I’m a junior; I’m working on it. It’s a decision I probably need to make pretty soon,” he said. “I do know though that I want to go for a major that would be good for pre-law because I do want to go to law school.”  

Miller said he is grateful to the American Legion for the scholarship money and for sponsoring him in the contest. 

“My grandpa was a legionnaire and the organization has always played definitely some sort of a role in my life,” he said. “For example, through Boy Scouts, which I’m also a part of, every Memorial Day we would basically go up and volunteer and we would plant flags in the cemetery, and you would come back and the American Legion would give you a free breakfast, and it was a really great volunteering opportunity, so I’ve always kind of in some way, shape or form been involved with Legion activities.” 

He also described how it felt to find out he had won the state competition. 

“I was in Manhattan with my dad, and I had to shake a lot of hands and I got a lot of congratulations, and we were heading out to the car getting ready to go home and I said ‘I feel like I should be more excited,’” Miller said. “And it was more of a slow burn. It wasn’t just one moment where I absolutely lost my mind because I was overwhelmed with excitement, but it just felt really good knowing I was able to accomplish something like that, and it still does.”