Speaking Proudly seeks high school girls for oratory competition

Minnesota high school girls are wanted to take part in the statewide competition in St. Paul on June 17. The prize-winning competition is a nonpartisan, nonprofit project of Metro Republican Women.

Speaking Proudly contestants
Speaking Proudly contestants from a previous year gather for a group photo. The statewide oratory competition is for Minnesota high school girls.
Contributed / Sherie Wallace

ST. PAUL — If you have something to say, why not say it out loud and proud?

Speaking Proudly is a nonpolitical oratory speech competition for Minnesota high school girls. Applicants are being sought and applications must be received or postmarked by April 1.

“Speaking Proudly is interested in improving civil discourse,” said Rita Hillmann Olson, a two-time judge and a judge in this year’s competition. “The judges come from all walks of life — media, business owners, legislators, teachers, lawyers, etcetera.”

The third biennial competition will be held June 17 at the Minnesota Capitol, and the first-, second- and third-place finishers will receive prizes of $2,500, $2,000 and $1,500, respectively. This year's speech topic is “Securing 'the Blessings of Liberty’ in 21st-Century America.”

Rita Olson headshot
Rita Olson
Contributed / Rita Olson

“Speaking up for what you believe and listening to what others believe is a basic principle of our democracy,” Olson said.


Applicants must be Minnesota residents or attend school in the state and be in grades nine through 12 for the 2022-23 academic year. (This includes girls who graduated in spring 2023.)

“The girls will be able to exhibit their talents as future leaders and build their confidence,” said Olson, who lives outside of New Prague, Minnesota.

The application consists of writing an outline of the speech and a short summary. The number of contestants allowed for 2023 is 24, according to Olson. There were 13 contestants in 2021 and 17 contestants in 2019.

Speaking Proudly statewide oratory competitors
Previous Speaking Proudly competitors smile for the camera during the statewide nonpolitical oratory competition.
Contributed / Sherie Wallace

“This is the first year that each girl will be given the opportunity to speak in the House Chambers. To clarify, all the girls will have an opportunity to speak in the House of Representatives Chamber,” Olson said. “What a special experience for the contestants.”

Lisa Richards is the president of Headwaters Republican Women, a Bemidji chapter of the Minnesota Federation of Republican Women.

“Going to the Capitol and seeing everything that's happening down there and actually being able to speak in the rotunda — that’s huge,” Richards said of the statewide competition.

Lisa Richards headshot
Lisa Richards
Contributed / Lisa Richards

The contestants are broken into groups and each group goes to a different room with a set number of judges to give their speech. During one of those three rounds, they will be in the House chambers. The other two rounds will be in Capitol meeting rooms.

“There will be two rounds in the morning and the third round in the afternoon,” Olson said. “Then all the contestants meet in the rotunda for the final round and the top three finalists give their speech a fourth time and then the first, second and third places are announced.”


The three finalists will give their speeches in the rotunda, according to Olson, which is open to the public.

“We encourage families to bring their students to the competition on June 17th to hear the top three speeches,” Olson said. “It is an excellent family trip and will inspire other girls to apply for the 2025 competition."

Speaking Proudly is a nonpartisan, nonprofit project of Metro Republican Women, an organization “dedicated to the election of Republican candidates and the advancement of conservative ideas,” according to the group’s website.

“This is an opportunity for young girls who are not afraid to make a stand — you know, tell everybody ‘This is what I believe in, I'm not going to change for anything’ — and then they get rewarded with a scholarship if they win,” Richards said of the oratory competition.

Olson added, “This is an event that all girls, no matter their political leanings, are encouraged to participate in. … Girls of differing political persuasions have been winners in previous competitions.”

For more information about the Speaking Proudly oratory competition, including contest rules and procedures, and how to apply to be a contestant, visit .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The weekly newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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