A Declamation Piece...Wait, Was This an Original Oratory?

If all a Declamation piece needs to be is published and previously performed in public to meet qualifications, then almost anything may suffice.  Depending on what league you compete in, there is a possibility that you can perform a past State/National winning Original Oratory as a piece.  Some leagues have outlawed this practice on the grounds that the speech was written for a competitive event and not for a true, widely seen public presentation.  Yet, there are areas in the Nation were an OO can be used because top-performing OOs are often published on websites at the end of the season.  Clearly, if you were to choose your Declamation piece from past winning Original Oratories you would have to consult your local rules.  However, if you are able to use an OO there are other factors to consider beyond legality.

When substituting an Original Oratory for a Declamation, the real question should not be can I, but rather should I?  Obviously this falls into the realm of morality which is always an individual and subjective opinion.  What one considers appropriate, another may not.  Ultimately, the final decision rests with you and your coach.  However, this Declamation touchy subject poses three interesting hurtles one will have to have the momentum to leap over successfully:

  1. The Well-Known Factor. If for your Declamation piece you choose a winning OO, you open yourself up to using what could be a widely known speech.  At local tournaments you possibly may never encounter a judge who would know if your piece was an OO or a traditional piece if it were not for the introduction.  That's local though.  As you rise-up the ranks your odds get slimmer of judges not recognizing the work.  Be aware that if your speech is known to a judge, they most likely have seen the Oratorical speaker who created and perfected the very Declamation you perform.  They will compare you to the original speaker and your rank may be crippled by this introduction of prior knowledge. 
  2. The Cop Out Factor. For those who recognize your Declamation for the Original Oratory it used to be, they may label your piece a cop out.  It will be questioned why you could not find a true public speech and instead opted to look at OO winners from the past few years and lift their piece.  Of course, this is a biased opinion and may never be an issue.  But the fact remains, there are purists in the speech world who will see your selected speech as "less" than one found from a traditional source--basically, you may be deemed lazy in your Declamation selection as you are looking through speeches that have already been labeled as award-winning.
  3. The Riding Another's Thunder Factor. Using a past OO can either be seen as homage or a blatant attempt to capture the success of another speechie.  Think.  If you use an OO it has to be one that surpassed all others.  The glory stems from the speaker's presentation, their research and persuasion skills, and their writing ability, no doubt.  But, the previous speaker also captured the audience's attention and gained their admiration.  Selecting a Declamation from a previous OO can be seen as a move to imitate previous excellence.  And no one likes an attention, grabbing copycat.

 Finding a Declamation piece can be a headache causing experience.  You will read more "bad" pieces than good.  Does that give you the right though to go automatically to the Original Oratory index and look at pieces where ALL have been given a label of outstanding?  Again, it is a morality question; one where you need to ask if you are comfortable with the views others, and yourself, may have for you during competition.  If you can mentally support the added baggage of utilizing an OO in Declamation, then go for it.  Make the speech yours and forget its history in previous seasons.  And above all, make sure this practice is legal in your league!