Dodson, a senior homeschooled student, was reluctant to sign up for her first contest four years ago.
An English teacher at a homeschooling group in Fayetteville recommended Dodson compete, and she was surprised when she came in third at her first competition.
From there, Dodson was hooked. Her ambitions to become a photographer were scratched, and instead she dreamed of being a lawyer.
“I am so glad that I began to compete in that,” she said.
Dodson won first place at the local post level her sophomore year, and last year competed at nationals in Indianapolis. She lost in the first round and is determined to return to the national competition again this year, her last year competing.
Today, Dodson will compete alongside four other high schoolers who have worked their way up through their American Legion Post, District and Area competitions.
Dodson began preparation for this year’s competition in November. She wrote and edited drafts of her speech, then began a month of memorizing it and polishing her delivery.
In February, she competed from Legion Post 304 in Acworth and won first place. Two weeks later, she won again at the district level in Acworth. Dodson competed against two other contestants at the area competition in Smyrna earlier this month and has already won $1,000 in prize money from her success this year.
At an oratorical competition, Dodson is given 8 to 10 minutes to speak about anything she wants regarding the Constitution.
She sits in a waiting room with the other competitors and waits her turn to be called. To calm her nerves, Dodson said she always brings her Bible with her and reads Scripture to soothe her mind.
After she delivers her first speech, a random audience member pulls a number out of a hat that correlates with an amendment. This year, Dodson has prepared four 5-minute speeches on Amendments 1,4,13 and 21.
There is no microphone, no clapping and no emotion expressed from anyone in the crowd. Dodson said she calls on her faith to keep her focused and makes sure to have all her speeches memorized before showing up to compete.
Participating in the competition has inspired a strong sense of patriotism in Dodson. She is planning to attend Georgia Tech in the fall and pursue a degree in international law, then move straight on to law school.
“I’ve really developed a passion for our country and defending the liberties in our Constitution,” Dodson said. “So many people don’t know what our Constitution says.”
She strongly believes in defending the centuries-old text written by the Founding Fathers.
“The point is to inform Americans ‘Hey, look at how uninformed our country is and look at the state of the politics in our country. The Constitution is party-less. The goal is to still hold on to the foundation of our Constitution,” Dodson said.
If all goes well today, Dodson will move on to Indianapolis to compete in April.