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WHS student places second in oratorical contest

Ian Taylor, middle, poses with American Legion members after placing second in the organizations oratorical competition for students where the topic was the U.S. Constitution. Submitted photo.

While many of his peers were likely counting down the days to winter holiday break, Ian Taylor was delivering a speech on the U.S. Constitution to a group of veterans.

The Woodbury High School junior placed second at a district oratorical competition put on by the American Legion held Dec. 19 in Montgomery, Minn.

Taylor was sponsored by the Woodbury American Legion Post 501, which belongs to the state organization's Third District. His 8 minute speech entitled "An Ignored Freedom" focused on the history of voting rights as enumerated in the Constitution.

Taylor's second-place finish at the competition meant that he just missed out on a chance to compete at the state level, but the content of his speech along with his delivery left judges impressed, said Tom Grezek, post commander of the Woodbury America Legion.

"I think Ian blew the judges away with his knowledge of the subject," Grezek said. "It's not easy to deliver a convincing speech for 8-10 minutes with judges watching on. It's a real challenge for these kids, but we were very proud of him and his representation of our post."

Taylor, 16, who was the only non-senior in the contest, said he chose to focus his speech on the voting rights after his experiences during the Fall 2008 election season when he aided his mother in campaigning for a political candidate.

While door knocking Taylor said he met people who said they did not vote or had not voted before.

"I was confused as to why somebody wouldn't want to exercise their right to vote," Taylor recalled. "Through my research leading up to this contest I really discovered the value of that right."

Taylor said his speech called into mind that it wasn't very long ago that women and African-Americans were not allowed to vote.

"There are so many people in our nations history who sacrificed and worked and really spilled blood so we can all have the right to vote," Taylor said. "Right now, with how far this country has come, for somebody to choose not to vote, it's really an ignored freedom."

After spending time doing researching the voting rights amendments and getting pointers from his mother, who is a lawyer, and his AP U.S. History teacher, Taylor said he recited his speech several times leading up to the competition.

As part of the competition, Taylor also had to study and memorize for assigned topics related to other specific amendments in the U.S. Constitution and be prepared to answer questions with a 3-5 minute speech.

He said his participation on Woodbury High School's mock trial team also served him well in preparation for the contest.

Grezek said it was apparent Taylor was well studied in the subject.

"I think I learned more about that the U.S. Constitution in his 8-minute speech than I have in my entire life," Grezek said. "And I'm a military veteran."

Taylor's effort was the first year the Woodbury American Legion has sponsored a local student in the annual competition, which strives to promote patriotism among youth.

The competition offers scholarships to participants and winners.

Grezek said the Woodbury post plans to continue to promote the contest on an annual basis.

"It's a great program, and we are very proud of Ian's efforts," he said.