Yes, yet another group of school kids and their parents are battling it out over whose little darling should be valedictorian. I like the approach taken by my son's high school. All the seniors, on dates scattered through the year, must make a 10-15 speech to the school. On anything. This year there were speeches on topics ranging from the Holocaust to the banking crisis to "why I love my dog" to "why the rumors of my crying at that formal dance Freshman year when my date abandoned me are greatly exaggerated."
The speeches are a fun event. The speaker's friends leave an offering of food and balloons on the stage. When they are done, much of the school comes up on stage and congratulates them. It is great experience, and (within the context of public speaking, which is stressful for many) the school works to lower the pressure on the kids -- in fact, there are no grades for the speeches that hit any transcript.
The only grading is simple -- whoever is judged to have given the best speech, both in subject matter and in presentation, gives the speech at graduation.
Of course, this could only work at a private school, where the school and teachers can actually exercise judgement without having to defend their decision in court.
PS- My son's speech included, among other topics, one of the four subjects listed above. If you really must know which, see the 23-minute mark here.