Robert G. Ingersoll Oratory Contest Returns to Nation’s Capital

Co-sponsored by the American Humanist Association, Washington DC’s Dupont Circle will be the location of the 2013 Robert G. Ingersoll Oratory Contest on June 30. The outdoor event, being held for the third time, pits up to 15 contestants against one another as they deliver their favorite passages from Ingersoll’s speeches.

This year’s panel of judges will include award-winning writer Susan Jacoby, author of The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought, released earlier this year. She will remain on hand after the contest to sign copies of her book.

Known as “the Great Agnostic,” Ingersoll was a 19th century American superstar orator. He delivered speeches to packed houses all over the country, from small rural towns to large cities. He spoke eloquently and persuasively against religion, but he also spoke in support of women’s rights, natural selection, birth control, voting rights, and free speech, among other issues of importance to humanists and freethinkers.

Steve Lowe of the Washington Area Secular Humanists is the event’s founder. “Despite being one of our country’s most influential historical figures, Robert Ingersoll has become largely forgotten,” Lowe said. “This contest is meant to help revive his message and his popularity.”

Prize money has been increased for this year’s contest: First place, $250; second place, $150; third place, $100; fourth place, $50. All contestants will receive a certificate. Half of the $20 entry fee is refunded for competitors who show up on time. Those who would like to register can do so online. If the 15-contestant maximum is reached before the June 15 deadline, a waiting list will be maintained.

The contest is sponsored by the Washington Area Secular Humanists, the American Humanist Association, The Center for Inquiry-DC, and the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, a project of the Council for Secular Humanism.