MN High School Girls Compete to Persuade at State Capitol

Seventeen high school girls from across Minnesota participated in a speech competition at the state’s Capitol this past Saturday.

Speaking Proudly, the oratory competition sponsored by the Metro Republican Women, tasked interested high school females with writing an original persuasive speech on Benjamin Franklin’s prescient statement, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” According to the Speaking Proudly website,

The 2019 Speaking Proudly topic is drawn from a 1787 encounter between Benjamin Franklin and a Philadelphia woman who was curious about the outcome of the Constitutional Convention that had just completed its work.

Identify a particular threat or challenge—past, present, or future—to our republic. Judges will expect you to make clear the significance of the threat or challenge you are focusing on. Of course, you’ll do well to deal with an issue that won’t have been chosen by other speakers.

Identify and explain the work of an individual or group or movement that was/is/will be key to overcoming the threat or challenge you’re focusing on.

Inspire a response in your audience. In some conceptualizations of the persuasive speech, this step is referred to as a “call to action.” Whatever it’s called, the idea is that a persuasive speech (an oration, that is) sends listeners away changed—whether in large ways or small.

A selection committee identified the most impressive speech descriptions from submitted applications and then invited those applicants to compete at the Capitol. Competitors gave their speeches in a preliminary round followed by a semi-final round, and then the top three highest ranking speakers advanced to a final round, where speeches were delivered in the Capitol Rotunda.

Speeches were to be no more than eight minutes in length, and competitors were given guidelines to follow, such as giving the speech a clear structure and adroitly weaving sources of evidence to support their topic into the text of the speech.

Judges included speech teachers, Minnesota public officials and public figures. (I was asked to serve as a semi-final round judge—what an amazing experience!)

Winners received monetary recognition but were also recognized for finding their voice to speak proudly of our country.

The $1,000 first place prize went to Meaghen Katherine McManus from Woodbury and her speech, “On This Rock.” The second place prize, $500, went to Mary Helen Kracht from West St. Paul and her speech, “The Homicide That’s Killing Our Nation.” Finally, Olivia Sunshine McNair from Ottertail received the third place prize of $250 for her speech, “It’s All About the Benjamins.”

There were many outstanding speeches, so kudos to all the competitors and the hard work they put into preparing for the competition. It was inspiring to hear young women speak their truth about issues that matter to them and to the well-being of our country. Thank you, Speaking Proudly, for giving Minnesota’s high school females a space to freely express their patriotism and develop as future leaders who will help shape our state and our nation.


The next Speaking Proudly oratory competition is anticipated to take place in 2021.