In my freshman year in high school, 1960, I participated in the Kentucky high school regionals of what was called The State Speech Festival. Organized like Spelling Bee competitions, the best of the best at the regionals would be selected and sent onto state finals a couple of weeks later. I can’t recall all the categories, but ever since I was in first grade, we would gather in the high school gym and watch our best performers, juniors and seniors, do their presentations; dramatic readings. poetry, etc.
Being part of the East Kentucky region, this was also where students were supposed to show state leaders that we knew the difference between “fire” and “far” and could say it out loud. Without pausing first.
Being a freshman, this was just a preparatory trip for me, and I was entered in “Extemporaneous Speaking” where students would draw from a hat a theme, be given 20 minutes to think on it and then give a three-minute talk. I reached into the book and pulled out “Federal Aid to Education, A good idea?”
Hell, I didn’t even know there was federal aid to education (which at the time there wasn’t) or that people were even fer it, or agin it. I paced and muttered for 20 minutes, then, when called, muttered my way through my presentation[…]