B y Krystle S. Morey

Granville took first and second place in this weekend’s American Legion oratorical contest.
Kyra Gee, a junior at Granville High School, won over judges with her engaging presentation and historically accurate content, earning first place in the county-level competition.
Gee was up first, but the judges didn’t know who she was or which school she was from. The three judges, who were scattered throughout the Granville High School auditorium, only knew the students as the number in which they were called.
Gee’s speech focused on women’s rights and the Constitution. She started off with a personal anecdote about her family’s moving from Boston to a small farm in Hebron. She compared the move to when the groundwork for our nation was laid.
“Our founding fathers, like my family, planted the seeds for America,” Gee said.
She spoke about notable women, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony, who fought to rid America of the “weeds of patriarchy” during the fight for equality.
Gee will deliver her speech at the district-level competition in Plattsburgh on Jan. 9, competing against the winners of the other county-level competitions from across the state.
“She did very well,” said Jerry Austin, the Granville post’s adjutant.
Granville’s Jake Vladyka placed second among the seven students who competed Saturday.
Vladyka, who spoke fourth, talked about Alexander Hamilton’s interpretation of the Constitution. He called Hamilton “one of the most influential men in the shaping of America” and outlined his views on distribution of power, state and national debt, and developing America into an industrial power.
He touted the essential groundwork laid for the country by Hamilton.
“He was a key founding father of our country,” Vladyka said, citing acts such as fostering a strong central government, industrial growth and unity for the country’s debt and currency.
Vladyka projected his speech loudly, allowing all in the auditorium and beyond to hear his words.
“If this essential father hadn’t have done what he did, perhaps we would not have some of the essential things we see every day,” he said.
In the event that Gee cannot compete on Jan. 9, Vladyka will go in her place.
“It takes a very special kid to get up on that stage … especially at that age,” said Jim Lafayette, moderator and Whitehall adjutant, praising each of the contestants.
Other contestants included Paige DeLorme and Suzanne Dumas of Whitehall, Sadi Morin of Cambridge, Greenwich’s Michael Casey and Francheska Steele of Fort Ann. Each of the students memorized their speeches.
Dumas spoke second, reporting on the prohibition era and the role of alcohol in the United States. Dumas told the story of how many Americans were killed in the 1800s by excessive alcohol consumption. At one point, she said, individual Americans were consuming more than seven gallons of alcohol annually.
Dumas stumbled a bit on her words, but picked up where she left off after a moment.
Morin spoke third, reciting her opinion on the right to bear arms. She started her speech with an anecdote about a woman who was eating lunch in a restaurant when a man crashed his car into the side of the establishment and began to open fire on those eating there. Because of a law, though, she did not have a gun to help protect herself or her family. Her mother was one of those who was killed.
“Instead of more gun laws, we need more punishment for those who use guns improperly,” she said. Morin, an avid hunter and licensed gun safety instructor, gave examples of proper use of firearms: hunting, target shooting and protection of one’s self and others.
Steele spoke fifth on how the country’s government fosters a safe place for its citizens to vote.
“People in many other countries are often left in the dark when it comes to government happenings,” she said.
DeLorme recited her speech next, stressing the importance of Americans fighting to maintain their rights, particularly the 2nd Amendment: the right to bear arms.
“Having guns is a long-standing tradition that has been challenged a lot more recently,” she said, citing the various shootings that have occurred and affected many lives.
“When you bear arms, there’s a certain amount of safety that you have,” DeLorme said.
Last to speak was Michael Casey of Greenwich, who talked about the importance of Americans knowing and exercising their rights.
“In the U.S., we are so lucky that we have these rights,” he said.
The contest tests students’ public speaking and writing skills for a chance to win more than $18,000 in scholarships. The purpose of the competition, Lafayette said, is to “get kids to learn something about the Constitution.”
Gee said there’s still a lot of practicing she has to do before the district-level competition.
“All you can do is keep practicing,” she said.
Her father Geoffrey Gee said his daughter practiced quite a bit for the county-wide competition, including speed-reading her speech at dinner the night before.
“She sounded like an auctioneer,” he said.
In Plattsburgh, Gee will deliver her speech and do a three-to-five-minute speech on a random amendment of the Constitution.
“There are four amendments you prepare for. It could be any one of those four. You don’t know which one it’s going to be until they tell you,” Gee said.



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