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Dr. Thomas A. Watkins 
Oratorical Contest

One of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s national programs for collegiate brothers is the Belford V. Lawson Oratorical Contest.  Named after Belford Lawson, Jr., the 16th General President of the fraternity, and an American attorney and civil rights activist who was the first African American man to win a case before the Supreme Court and the first African American president of the Young Men’s Christian Association, the purpose of the oratorical contest is to identify problems or special topics of interest within society and determine how the problem or topic relates to the goals and objectives of the fraternity.

Each year, the fraternity develops a theme for the contest and the contestants are charged with creating speeches with original content that addresses the theme in no longer than seven minutes. 


All speeches are judged on Speech Development, Effectiveness, Speech Value, Voice, Manner, Appropriateness, Correctness and Physical Presentation.


Rho Chapter’s Oratorical Contest is geared toward all college-bound males in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas in grades 9 through 12 and named in honor of Dr. Thomas H. Watkins, Sr., an educator and community and church leader who was an active member of Rho Chapter and served as its President for eight years. The contest allows the high-school males to demonstrate their oratorical skills and defend their position based on the research they have done on the contest topic.


Winners are awarded a medal and monetary scholarships: 

Third place receives $200; Second place receives $300; and First place receives $500.


Past Oratorical Contest Topics:

“Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community 50 Years After the Death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

“What is the role of Black Men in upholding the respect of womanhood in today’s society.”

“Modern media and its effects on Black America.”

“Global Warming & Global Warnings: African Americans’ role in protecting our environment through mentorship while providing advocacy for our communities.”

“W.E.B. Dubois on the launch of his groundbreaking 1903 Treatise. The
Souls of Black Folk stated “For the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line…” 100 years later what is the problem of the 21st century and how should African Americans respond?”

“Beyond the Rhetoric: Healthcare for All Americans: Entitlement or Privilege?”

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