The Joseph S. Rumbaugh Historical Oration Contest

The National Association of Secondary School Principals has placed this program on the NASSP National Advisory List of Contests and Activities for 2014-2015.


NASSP Student Contests and Activities Page



The Joseph S. Rumbaugh Historical Oration Contest is open to all students attending home schools, public, parochial, or private high schools who are in their freshman, sophomore, junior or senior (grades 9 through 12) year of study.

History of The Joseph S. Rumbaugh Oration Contest

In 1945 an Ohio SAR member, Douglass G. High, originated this creative exercise in a Cincinnati Senior High.  Two years later the NSSAR assumed National sponsorship.  Douglass G. High passed away in 1952.  In 1953 the National Society attached his name to the contest title as a memorial.   He was the first Chairman on the NSSAR Oration Committee, serving in this capacity for five years.

In honor of a Florida SAR member, this Oratorical event was renamed the Joseph S. Rumbaugh Oration Contest.  For many years this Compatriot has shown an active interest in the welfare of youth and has been a creative promoter of this contest.  The contest is designed to explore the influence of the Revolutionary war on present day America.


Purpose Of The National Contest

The preliminary rounds of the contest are held by Chapters and/or State Societies of the Sons of the American Revolution to select one winner from each participating state.  In regions (SAR Districts) where no State Society sponsors an entrant, an SAR District entry is permitted.  Prizes may be awarded to winners of Chapter and State Society (or District) competitions.  The State or District sponsor is responsible for informing the contestant how expenses of competing at the National Level will be made.  For example, travel, hotel for two evenings and meal expense.

The National Society competition between State Society winners is held during the NSSAR's National Congress in June/July.


The National Rumbaugh Orations Committee is currently attempting to raise the level of scholarship awards for our national winners.  Please consider contributing to the Orations endowment by accessing the fillable form "The Dr. Joseph Warren Medal".  Our youth thank you for giving them this increased opportunity for education.  You can download the form here.


Rules of the Rumbaugh Oration Contest

For further information about the contest, do one of the following

See a list of our Previous National Winners

Official Rules of the The Joseph S. Rumbaugh Historical Oration Contest

  1. The contest will be held in preliminary round(s) by state societies and/or chapters of the Sons of the American Revolution to select one winner from each participating state.  In districts where no state society sponsors an entrant, a district entry is permitted.  Each participating state society or district should provide information regarding the contest to senior high school, parochial, private and home-schooled speech and/or history teachers and principals or counselors as early as possible.
  2. The contest is open to all students of the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes (Grades 9 - 12) in the public, parochial, private and home schools within the jurisdiction of the sponsoring state society or district.
  3. The oration must be original of not less than five minutes or more than six minutes.  The subject shall deal with an event, personality, or document pertaining to the Revolutionary War and show a relationship to America today.  The oration must be essentially the same as the submitted manuscript.   Notes and props (including military uniforms) may not be used in the presentation.
  4. The state society or district establishes the date and deadlines for its contest allowing adequate time to submit its winner as an entrant in the national competition.  (Four weeks before the start of NSSAR Congress)   Form A & B, which can be found below, (National) must be received by the National Chairman by the deadline.
  5. Before the chapter winner competes in the state contest, a copy of the oration, a photograph and biographical sketch of the entrant, and the completed Form B should be mailed to the state chairman following the chapter contest.  Form A (State) will be sent by the Chapter Chairman to the State Chairman.
  6. At Congress the NSSAR will furnish awards and give recognition to all orators who participate in the national preliminary and final contests.
  7. Expenses involving lodging, meals, and transportation to, at, and from the NSSAR Congress may be borne by the sponsoring state society or district.   Chaperon for the entrant may be provided by the state society or district.
  8. During the presentation of orations at chapter, state-district, or national contest, no applause is permitted until all orators have finished speaking.
  9. During the contest, no private videotaping or flash picture taking will be allowed.
  10. By action of the 1985 Congress, all judges in the Joseph S. Rumbaugh Historical Oration Contest must be members of the SAR.  The judges will select the winners by the following criteria:  A. Composition; B. Delivery; C. Significance; D. History. Time allocated for delivery is between 5 and 6 minutes.  (A penalty is applied for going outside the time allocations.)
  11. The contestants must agree that the interpretation of rules and the decisions of the NSSAR and its judges shall govern without reservation.   The judging sheets and notes are the property of the SAR.
  12. The first place winner at the national level of the Joseph S. Rumbaugh Historical Oration Contest may not compete in its future competitions.
  13. The first place National winner is expected to attend the youth awards luncheon the day after the final competition.



First Place………………………………………………$5,000

Second Place…………………………………………$3,000

Third Place ……………………………………………$2,000


The above winners also receive an Olympic-size medal

All other finalists…………………………………… $400

All other national Contestants  ……………… $200


The winner of the state or district contest may receive expenses toward their trip to compete in the national contest.  The state society or district may give a cash award and/or an Olympic-size medal.



The Joseph S. Rumbaugh Historical Oration Contest Procedures

Insofar as possible the chapter, state or district contest should follow the procedures of the NSSAR Congress contest.  These procedures are known to the majority of our chairmen, but new chairmen may be unfamiliar with them.  The national procedures are as follows:

  • At the beginning of the program the rules are explained to the orators and the audience.
  • Before the contest begins, preferably in private conference with the chairman, the orators draw numbers to determine the speaking order.
  • All orators are introduced only by number
  • In giving the oration, at no time may the orator use notes or props.
  • There are at least three judges, all of whom are SARs in accordance with the 1985 NSSAR Congress action.  Prior to the contest, the chairman discusses the rules, procedures and judging sheets with the judges.  The judges are seated throughout the audience with their location unknown to the speakers.   The chairman acts neither as coach nor judge.
  • Before the first orator comes before the audience, the timer is introduced.   For the benefit of the orator, the signals to indicate five minutes and six minutes are described to the orators and the audience.  If the orator announces a title, timing does not begin until the oration itself begins.  The orator at the end of six minutes may complete his/her sentence.  If the orator begins the next sentence and/or continues, the timer records the excess time.   If the oration is less than five minutes, the timer records the time not used.
  • The chairman follows the manuscript.  The changing of a word or a sentence is understood, but if a substantial portion of the oration deviates from the manuscript, the chairman indicates this on the record.  The timer and chairman are seated together for recording purposes.  The one who is following the manuscript can and should prompt.  The timer notes these promptings on his record. 
  • When the contest is over the judges and timer have retired, the chairman introduces each orator either by name or number and asks the individual to comment on his/her activities, school, future plans, and any family members or support group persons that may be with them at the contest.
  • When the judges return, they are introduced.  The judging sheets and notes are the property of the SAR.  The winners are announced and presented with monetary awards and Olympic-size medals.  Some chapter, states, and districts give monetary awards along with Olympic-size medal for first place.  The medal is available for chapters, states and districts and can be purchased from the NSSAR Merchandise Department.  Check the merchandise catalog for details.