Francesca, Elizabeth and Malia!

The winners of the third biennial Speaking Proudly oratory competition June 17, 2023, at the Minnesota State Capitol are:

  • First placeFrancesca Rose Chastek, a St. Paul resident and Chesterton Academy student, who received $2,500 for her speech titled, “How to Escape the Prison You Built”
  • Second place Elizabeth Lynn Mitchell of Minnetonka, also a Chesterton Academy student, who received $2,000 for “Rediscovering the Roots of Liberty: Securing Our Nation’s Education”
  • Third place Malia Kaye Schleusener, an Arden Hills resident and homeschooled student, who received $1,500 for “Speaking Boldly in the Midst of Modern Opposition”

Follow the links above to videos of the finalists’ speeches.

The overall topic for this year’s competition was, “Securing ‘the Blessings of Liberty’ in Twenty-first Century America.” All the competitors participated in three preliminary rounds, each time before different judges and in various Capitol rooms and the House of Representatives Chamber.

State Senator Julia Coleman served as master of ceremonies for the day’s fourth and final round in the Rotunda, assisted by Lillie Imm, winner of Speaking Proudly 2021.

Senator Coleman announced the three finalists, who immediately delivered their speeches, this time before six judges and an audience of relatives and friends. While the judges’ scores and rankings were tabulated, she spoke to the girls about what it takes to be “A Woman of Strength.”

Speaking Proudly is open to Minnesota high school girls in grades nine through 12. It is a nonpartisan, nonprofit project of Metro Republican Women, with help from other Minnesota Federation of Republican Women clubs.

Shortly before the final round, Senator Coleman (front row, fourth from left) and the high school competitors gathered on one of the Capitol’s elegant staircases.

~ Photo courtesy of Vickie Froehlich

Watch the Final Round

Watch the final round and awards ceremony, courtesy of AlphaNews.

Francesca Chastek accepts her first-place trophy from Lillie Imm, Speaking Proudly 2021’s winner, and Senator Coleman.

~ Photo courtesy of Sherie Wallace

Competition day began in the L’Etoile du Nord Vault in the Capitol basement, with a welcome from Barb Sutter, Minnesota’s national GOP committeewoman.

~ Photo courtesy of Sherie Wallace

In the House Chamber, Mahtomedi High School student Joud Firas Wadi discussed “the Blessings of Liberty” from her perspective as a first-generation American.

~ Photo courtesy of Vickie Froehlich

Minnesota Historical Society guides took the competitors on tours of the Capitol, including the Quadriga on the roof.

~ Photo courtesy of Sherie Wallace

All the competitors had one round of speaking in the House of Representatives Chamber, standing below a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. The Capitol is a memorial to the Minnesotans who served in the Union Army during the Civil War.

~ Photo courtesy of Sherie Wallace

After ranking and scoring the final-round’s competitors, judges Martha Njolomole, Kim Crockett and King Banaian chat while waiting for the results to be tabulated and announced.

~ Photo courtesy of Sherie Wallace

The day’s events ended with a group photo of the Speaking Proudly 2023 competitors on the Capitol’s south steps Capitol.

~ Photo courtesy of Sherie Wallace

Looking Ahead to 2025

Planning is in progress for the next Speaking Proudly, which will be in the fall of 2025. To receive updates, please email

The competition’s organizers already are at work are raising donations and publicizing the event to students, parents and teachers. For example, individuals who visited the Speaking Proudly table at the recent Second Congressional District GOP convention could enter a prize raffle. The winner of a $100 gift certificate and grilling gear was Hastings resident Blake Kunitz (pictured to the right).