Glendale High students carry on 105-year-old school tradition

The oratorical event, unique to Glendale High, dates back to 1909.

March 01, 2014|By Kelly Corrigan,
  • Glendale High School junior class tableau at the 105th annual Oratorical at the Glendale school on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. The theme for this year was Masters of our own future.
Glendale High School junior class tableau at the 105th… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

Glendale High students carried on a 105-year-old tradition on Friday when freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors competed against each other in a contest that featured elaborate tableaus where students recreated scenes with themes such as immigration, compassion and ambition.

The event began with students filing into the school’s auditorium neatly dressed in white collared shirts and black pants, careful not to utter a word, or make eye contact with nearby classmates, let alone glance at their phones.

PHOTOS: Glendale High School's 105th annual oratorical

Once seated, the students refrained from speaking to one another, knowing they would be judged on their disciplined behavior by Los Angeles police detectives wandering the aisles of the auditorium.

A student representing each class then gave a five-minute memorized speech adhering to a theme of what today’s students owe to their ancestors and to the generations who came before them as they become the masters of their own future.


Following each student’s speech, the auditorium’s curtains were opened to reveal elaborate tableaus featuring groups of students. After each tableau, students in the audience performed classic Glendale High chants and songs.

Dozens of judges made up of former Glendale High educators and students weighed in on the performances and announced the seniors as the first-place winners for each category — speech, discipline, spirit and tableaus.

Their tableau of a garden offered visuals to senior Michael Williams’ speech titled “The Roots of Gratitude” in which he told students to “continue the legacy of selflessness” initiated by prior generations, particularly immigrant ancestors who risked everything to start new lives with their families in America.

“We often dismiss our privileged lives as just another thing to be thankful for — when we acknowledge our privileges at all. In doing so, however, we neglect two of our greatest responsibilities: our obligations to our past and to our future.”

The school’s oratorical tradition began in 1909 when Glendale High was located on Harvard Street. Some say the event leaves a lasting impact, including Glendale High science teacher Shawna Metcalf, who graduated in 1996 and now advises students participating in the event.

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