Eleven Nassau County high school students faced off in a public speaking competition Thursday, channeling the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt on the same spot where he delivered several political speeches.
The Theodore Roosevelt Association has sponsored the contest since 1994. But for the first time the event was held on the porch of the former president’s Sagamore Hill home in the Village of Cove Neck. Previously the event had been held at the Old Orchard house on the Sagamore Hill grounds.
“We want the students to have the opportunity to do what T.R. did himself,” said Terrence Brown, executive director of the Theodore Roosevelt Association.
Kelley Garland, a junior at Wantagh High School, won with her speech covering Roosevelt’s effect on the NYPD while he was commissioner. She won a $1,000 grant, a Roosevelt bust, a public speaking medal and an invitation to deliver her speech again at Sagamore Hill on the Fourth of July.
Another speech, given by Manhasset High School junior Casey McNamara, focused on the physical disabilities Roosevelt overcame.
As a child, Roosevelt suffered from severe asthma, and doctors did not expect him to live long. McNamara, who suffers from a condition that has left her face partially paralyzed, said she was touched by Roosevelt’s perseverance.
“I didn’t let a paralyzed face keep me from competing in a public speaking contest,” she said.