The Optimist Oratorical Contest gives youngsters the chance to speak to the world. More than $150,000 in college scholarships funded by the Optimist International Foundations is awarded annually from this program.
First conducted in 1928, this is the second most popular Optimist International Program. Nearly 2,000 clubs participate in this program each year. The winners at the Club level receive medallions and Zone winners receive a plaque. Districts have the opportunity to provide two $2,500 scholarships or a first place scholarship of $2,500, a second place scholarship of $1,500, and a third place scholarship of $1,000.
Information for Optimist Members planning the contest:
All Members can now view and conveniently print planning pages for any International Program from your home computer. Click here to view the current Club Oratorical Contest Planning Guide. Click here to view the current District Oratorical Contest Planning Pages. To view the planning pages for any of the International Programs and Community Activities, please visit the forms and publications page.
Oratorical Contest Package - A Program Package for the contest is available by clicking here. Clubs can find useful materials to help them get started with the scholarship contest.
Support merchandise for this program can be ordered through Shumsky for US and Caribbean Clubs and from Ansell's Awards and Specialties for Canadian Clubs. Contact information for both supply companies can be found here.
For additional information, please contact the Optimist International Programs Department by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (800) 500-8130.
Certificates of Participation
If your Club or District is sponsoring a contest, certificates of participation can be presented to all contestants.
Certificate for Club level
Certificate for Zone level
Certificate for District level
Certificate for District Regional level
Publicize the Oratorical Contest
Optimist International has developed a series of news releases that Clubs and Districts can use in connection with their participation in international programs. Below are sample news releases that Clubs and Districts can use to promote the Oratorical Contest. Please note that the .doc version enables users to type their information into fields*, while the .pdf files are for viewing only.
Oratorical Contest - Prior to event (.docx)
Oratorical Contest - Prior to event (.pdf)
Oratorical Contest - After event (.docx)
Oratorical Contest - After event (.pdf)
District Oratorical One Winner - After event (.pdf)
District Oratorical One Winner - After event (.docx)
2017-18 Oratorical Contest Brochure
*If your Optimist Club or District wishes to use its own letterhead, you can remove the Optimist International logo in the document by opening up the Word document, going to "View," then "Toolbars" and selecting "Forms." When the "Forms" toolbar appears, click on the padlock, then click on the Optimist logo and delete it. For those using Microsoft Office 2007, click on the Microsoft Office button in the upper left corner, go to "Word options" and then select the box next to "Show the Developer tab in the Ribbon" and click "OK." Above the document, click the "Developer" tab and then click on the "Protect Document" drop-down menu. Click on "Restrict Formatting and Editing." At the bottom of the new window to the right, click the "Stop Protection" button.
Optimist International “Kids Speak Out” Club Contests
Optimist International offers Clubs a simple but spectacular way to get younger students involved in public speaking and prepare them for higher level Oratorical competitions. These contests are not backed by dollar awards but encourage students to develop speaking skills and prepare them for future Oratorical contests. Click here for more information on the Optimist International Kids Speak Out Contest and Planning Guide.
Optimist International is an international service club organization with 2,900 clubs and almost 87,000 members in more than 35 nations throughout the world. The international headquarters is located in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A. Optimist International is also the sponsor of Junior Optimist Octagon International, designed for elementary school- through high school-aged youth.
Optimist International's motto is "Friend of Youth" and the organization also uses the branding statement "Bringing Out the Best in Youth, in our Communities, and in Ourselves." Optimist Clubs demonstrate their caring attitude by carrying out the mission of the organization, "By providing hope and positive vision, Optimists bring out the best in kids."
Optimist International is made up of autonomous Optimist Clubs that do work in their communities. Each club raises its own funds and chooses its own service projects to improve the lives of children. Examples of typical projects are sponsoring youth athletic leagues, scholarship essay and speech contests and supporting local schools.
- "To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
- To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
- To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
- To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
- To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
- To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
- To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
- To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
- To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
- To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble."
The international organization was founded at a convention in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1919, uniting various local and regional clubs, the first of which was founded in Buffalo, New York in 1911. At the convention, the first official charter of the international organization was awarded to the club in Downtown Indianapolis, Indiana which was founded in 1916. 
The turn of the century was a turning point in the organization’s storied history. Following the International Convention in Reno, Nevada, the inaugural Optimist International Junior Bowling Championships (OIJBC) took place there. Junior bowlers battled for the right to be called “Optimist Champion.”
In July 2001, Optimists found themselves seated in the White House, pledging to support U.S. President George W. Bush’s goal to mentor one million children. Optimist International President Bob Garner called the meeting “yet another sterling example of ‘Optimists Bringing Out the Best in Kids.’”
Also in 2001, Optimist International introduced the Childhood Cancer Campaign to provide awareness and support of children battling cancer and the challenges their families face. In 2004, the organization made a $1 million commitment to Johns Hopkins to underwrite a research focus.
Optimist International signed up the first Friend of Optimists in 2005. This class of membership allows individuals to show their support of the organization’s mission if they are unable to commit as a traditional club member.
Also in 2005, the Optimist Junior Golf Program expanded to include the Optimist International Tournament of Champions for top-performing junior golfers ages 14 to 18. On October 1, 2006, the first female international president in Optimist history, Ronnie Dunn, took office for the standard one-year term. In October 2007, Theo Golding of Jamaica became the first international president from outside of Canada or the United States.
With children being introduced to the internet at earlier and earlier ages, the organization began an Internet Safety program in 2008 to keep children educated and safe from online predators.
There are currently about 87,000 individual members who belong to more than 2,900 autonomous Clubs. Optimists conduct 65,000 service projects each year, serving six million young people. Optimists also spend $78 million on their communities annually.
Optimist International sets out statements of mission, vision and purpose. These summarise its goals to aid and encourage youth development.
In 1922, the Optimist Creed was adopted as the official creed of the organization. The Optimist Creed was developed by Christian D. Larson. It details a number of pledges to which members attempt to adhere.