Ilion High School - Class of 1925

Washington Evening Star - May 3, 1925

Nation's School Orators Who Meet Here Friday

Article 4

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The Washington Evening Star - Flora Longenecker Oratorical Contest 1925


Nation's School Orators Who Meet Here Friday

World Notables To Hear Orators

The national finalists, in the order in which they will speak, are: Miss Asenath Graves, 16. Washington, champion of the District of Columbia. Miss Flora Longenecker, 16, Ilion, N. Y., Northeastern champion. Robert Sessions, 15, Birmingham, Ala., Southern champion. Eugene F. McElmeel, 16, Los Angeles, Calif, Pacific champion, George Stansell, 17, Chicago, Central States champion, Philip Glatfelter, 17, Columbia, Eastern champion, Max N. Kroloff, 17, Sioux City, Iowa, Midwestern champion.

In the presence of the President of the United States, more than half of the cabinet, members of the United States Supreme Court and countless other personages of International reputation, these champions of chainpions will fight it out. The seven are the sole survivors of the 1,400,000 who have participated in this year's National Oratorical Contest on the Constitution. They are the pick of 16,216 schools in all parts of the country.

Stirring Meeting Promised.

Impressive though the final meeting of the National Oratorical Contest was in 1924, it will be far more stirring this year. For one thing, the finals will be held in an auditorium holding approximately 7,000 people, whereas last year the largest available auditorium here had a seating capacity scarcely a third of that. For another, the tremendous growth in popular enthusiasm for and understanding of the movement has had its effect upon the preparations for the closing meeting of the year.

The meeting will be presided over by John Hays Hammond, President Coolidge will make an address on the meaning of the contest. Then the seven contestants will speak, each being allowed only 10 minutes. The following sketches give interesting details regarding the seven national finalists:

Miss Graves Is Native.

Miss Asenath Graves, 16-year-old Eastern High School senior, was born in Washington, D. C„ but comes from New England stock and numbers among her colonial ancestors Robert Cushman, the first pastor of Plymouth Colony, and Miles Standish, the governor of that colony. Among her revolutionary ancestors was Jeremiah Purdy, who served under Washington at Valley Forge. Her father was Capt. Herbert C. Graves, nautical engineer in the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, who died in England in 1919, while representing the United States in an International Nautical Congress held in connection with the Peace Conference.

Miss Flora Longenecker, 16, of Ilion. N. Y., is a slender, sparkling-eyed girl with golden locks and a golden voice. She was adjudged the best speaker in the Northeastern zone and was the only girl in that zone to win the championship of a newspaper territory. Miss Longenecker is a senior in Ilion High School, is president of the high school debating society and is a member of the school dramatic club. She has lived in Ilion but a year, after having passed eight years in Canadian schools while her parents lived at Windsor, Canada.

Robert Sessions, 15-year-old winner of the Southern finals, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert E. Sessions, of 946 West Seventh street, Birmingham, Ala. Mr. Sesions, sr., is a publisher, being vice president and Southern representative of the firm of Row, Peterson and Company of Chicago, publishers of text books for schools. Robert was born in Huntsville. Ala., June 1, 1909, and his parents removed to Birmingham when he was 4 years old. He attended the Martin grammar school before entering high school, and at the age of 9 began to distinguish himself as an orator. During the war, when he was a student in the fourth grade at Martin School, he was chosen as a three-minute speaker to address various classes of the school on the necesity of organized child effort at home to help win the war. He spoke on the patriotic duty of being thrifty and many a sale of war savings stamps was traced to his youthful eloquence, as well as many an addition to the membership rolls of the Red Cross. As a student in the Paul Heyne Junior High School, three years later, he distinguished himself ih school debates, and was an early favorite with school societies because of his oratorical ability. As a boy of 14 he won the interclub declamatory contest at Phillips High School, competing against many older students. He had been chosen as the representative of Hilliard Literary Society in the interclub contest, and his delivery of Patrick Henry's "Liberty or Death" speech won him first prize. Judge Hugo L. Black, a prominent Birmingham attorney and orator of distinction, heard Sesions in this contest and was quoted in a newspaper interview as follows:

"In all my experience as a lawyer and student of oratory I have never heard a better rendition of Patrick Henry’s 'Liberty or Death' speech than was given last Friday at the interclub oratorical contest at Phillips High School. Robert Sessions, the boy who gave the oration, is hardly out of grammar school, but there was nothing amateurish about his work. It has been years since a voice stirred me so. and I have never so fully realized the greatness of this speech as I did Friday. Some real orators are being developed at the local high schools, and the outlook for the future as to orators is bright indeed."

Wins in Third Attempt

Eugene F. MeElmeel, champion orator of the Pacific zone, is 16 years old. He is the son of Owen McElmeel, an attorney, living at 2726 West Fourteenth Street, Los Angeles, and is this year a senior in the high school department of Loyola College, Los Angeles. Eugene was born in Minneapolis, where his father was a member of the faculty of the University of Minnesota. The family moved to Los Angeles four years ago. Unable to participate in athletics because of a physical disability, the lad has found an outlet for his competitive spirit in oratory and debate. This is the third year in which he has been a contestant in the Constitution oratory contests. and ft has been his greatest ambition, as well as that of his father, to win the Pacific coast championship. His work as a student has been exceptional. He plans to be a lawyer when he has completed his education. Eugene is a natural orator, self-possessed, graceful of gesture and with a clear and carrying voice of unusual volume for his youth. One of Eugene's outstanding traits since childhood is fearlessness, his father says. He relates an incident of how the boy, when he was only 9 years of age, at one time had pounced on a full-grown badger, pulling the animal out of its hole by the hind legs and then seizing it by the back of the neck and pinning it to the ground until his father could kill it.

"That was a feat most grown men would hesitate to undertake, but Eugene exhibited no fear," said Mr. McElmeel. "He has always been that way. Nothing daunts him and the more difficult the task the greater his determination. I believe this is to a large extent responsible for his success in the "contest, for he has been defeated in two former contests of this kind, the one in 1923 and again in 1924. But he had his mind made up to keep on until he won out."

George Stansell, 17 years old, is a stocky swift-speaking senior from the Lake View High School, Chicago. In winning the championship of the Central States zone he won the distinction of being recognized as the best orator in the zone in which more contestants participated than in any of the seven national zones. His speech won special recognition because of its beautiful phraseology and the skill with which he employs word pictures.

Philip Glatfelter, 17-year-old senior of the high school of Columbia, Pa., winner of the Eastern zone championship, is the president of the senior class of his school, president of the Science Society and will be the valedictorian for this years' class. His principal says that he stands very high scholastically. He is editor-in-chief of the school paper. He plans to go to Princeton. When the result of the zone meeting was announced tn the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, the dark-haired victor was surrounded and kissed by a group of girls, and a woman who proved to be his mother. "All relatives," he explained, when some one cocked an inquisitive eye at the fair ones who were donating to the demonstration. It was Philip's third victory this year.

Max N. Kroloff, 17 years old, of Sioux City, Iowa, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. S. Kroloff. both of whom were born in Russia. Their son was born in America. He is a senior in the Sioux City High School. He expects to study law.


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