Sunday, April 24, 2016

Inspirational Toastmaster Speeches

Yesterday, I went to my first Toastmaster Division International Speech and Evaluation Contest which took place in Cedar Park. I didn't carpool with the others in my group because it would be faster to drive directly from my place vs. driving 35 minutes to connect with the others and then riding with them another hour.

My first challenge was to get there as my sense of direction isn't very good and it's hard for me to get anywhere without a person in the passenger seat looking at a map or directions and telling me which way to turn. At the beginning of the month, after telling someone in another group I belong to how I got lost in Austin the week before, I received a TomTom GPS from the lady who owned the house where we met. I found out it was outdated after trying it out on routes I was already familiar with and hoped it would get me to my destination even if it took me the long way around. The TomTom has a very pleasing female voice and I enjoy hearing her tell me which way to turn and how much further I have to drive before turning. I even love how she tells me to turn around if I am going the wrong way. I did manage to get to my destination!

If you're not familiar with Toastmasters, a LOT has to be said in an organized way in 5-7 minutes for "international" contest speeches. A timer is in charge of keeping speakers on track. Unlike the red, yellow, and green file folders we use in our club, this facility had a giant yellow traffic light with red, yellow, and green lights.

I jotted down notes while I was listening to the speakers so I could remember them, but I don't have enough information to state all the details accurately. The following account is mostly true to the best I can recall.

First, there was a 'test' speaker, who gave an account of his travels and places he'd lived--and how he fell in love with a certain festival and all the medals he began to collect from each one he attended. I forget which festival he told us about. Toward the end, he pulled out of a wide sash with his entire collection! I identified with this speaker because some of the places he described were places I'd lived. Six contestants evaluated his speech and we heard their reports later on in the contest.

Next were speaker contestants: I was deeply moved by 5 of the 6 speeches which included personal stories of transcending challenges such as childhood abuse, neglect, and/or disabilities. Since I personally have dealt with many of my own challenges, the speeches left me INSPIRED.

Speaker 1: David Dauber. David is confined to a wheel-chair due to Cerebral Palsy. His legs and body have to be strapped to the chair and he only has the use of one of his hands. His voice is deep and projects well. He demonstrated what his wheel-chair could do by pushing a button that raised him up to almost standing position. While he couldn't walk around the stage, he steered the wheel-chair around the stage instead. He spoke about his handicap and the two things that have made a difference for him: laughter and showing others appreciation. Despite this man's challenges, he's an actor, owns a business, and is married. I thought about Robert, the man my dwarf cousin married, a man who had been afflicted with polio when he was a child which stunted the growth of his legs and distorted his spine. He was unstoppable and went on to get a college degree and earn a good living in a computer-related career. He met my cousin at a "Little People's Club," they got married, and had a son who grew to be about 6 feet tall. Then they adopted a girl born without an arm/shoulder from Russia. In that family, you are not limited by what your body can do. You adapt with what you have. Anyway, I found David's website here:

Speaker 2: Raef Lambert. Raif told an entertaining story of how he grew up in a 3rd world country and how stupid 12-year old boys are. He was one of them. I raised one, so he held my interest. In that country, children were unsupervised and had the run of where-ever they wanted to go. I was intrigued by his brief description of what life was like for him there. Then he began to tell us about his attempt to impress a girl when he was 12. He discovered a yard with (a transformer?) one day when the gate was left open and found out it sent a buzz-like energy (electricity) through his body when he touched it. He devised a plan to get the girl in there with him. He'd lean over to kiss her while he was touching this thing so the electricity would go through him into her. She'd think it was coming from HIM and he'd be special. Well, she was wet (or the ground was wet) when he made the attempt and a lot more than a few volts of electricity went through both of them! Needless to say, he did NOT impress her and she never talked to him again. Raef's curiosity led him to Austin where he got a college degree and he is now a Business Analyst. You can find him on Linkedin here:

Speaker 3: Tim Manson. Tim is in our very own club. I've always been impressed with Tim's light-hearted sense of humor and his ability to transcend his disabling MS condition. In this speech, I learned how he's been able to do this. His speech was titled ENOUGH! His story weaved through time from childhood to where he is now... the leg brace he had to wear as a toddler, all the times he was thrown from a bull in his attempt to stay on one as a bull-rider... breaking both of his legs one of those times... then onto being diagnosed with MS, a condition my doctor thought I had even though nothing had shown up in tests. The stubborn determination he had to keep getting back up each time a bull threw him off prepared him for getting back up after flare-ups with MS. He concluded with ENOUGH! You can never get enough sunrises, smiles, blue skies, etc. Wow! Tim won 3rd Place. Here is information about Tim: and his website is:

Speaker 4: Melvin Banks. Melvin had a large portrait of when he was a small child brought out onto the stage before he began speaking. He began his speech with "Are you the one?" as he pointed to several people in the audience. His tale was how he had been humiliated by his father and teachers and believed he was stupid. Because he believed he was stupid, he never tried. Then one day, he got a new teacher who walked up behind him during a test and after seeing him write the correct answer to a math problem, whispered to him: "I KNEW you were smart!" He spoke about how powerful our words are and I related very well. My own father, whose name happened to be Melvin, often blurted out "You're stupid!" "You'll never amount to anything!" I had tried really hard to be smarter and better but was never "enough." I wasn't blessed with a teacher like Melvin was who said the right words. Melvin went on to get a college degree and is now an Inspirational Speaker and Coach for his own business "Banks Coaching & Consulting." I may be 60 and barely getting started, but if I live another 30 years, I still have time to make something of myself! Melvin won 1st Place. Here's where you can find more information about Melvin:

Speaker 5: Adrian Russell. Adrian entertained us with a story of wanting to run away when he was a child to be in a carnival. His father was an abusive alcoholic and his mother had stayed with him because she lacked the courage to leave. However, at some point, she made a different choice so Adrian had stayed. I immediately identified with Adrian. There were 5 kids in his family, there were 6 in mine. My father wasn't an alcoholic but he was verbally and sometimes physically abusive. I wanted so many times for my mother to leave him but she felt incapable of surviving without his measly paycheck or the house they owned together (even though it was mortgaged.) I couldn't find anything on Adrian. If I do find something, I'll add it later. I remember he said in his finale he went on to get a college degree, has had great success in life, and has an impressive career. Adrian won 2nd Place.

This concludes my 'observation' of the event. To date, I have completed 7 out of the 10 speeches I need to complete in order to get my CC (Competent Communicator.) I am also working on my CL (Competent Leadership.) It only took almost 3 hours for me to write this. If you're looking for a group to thrive in, I highly recommend Toastmasters! As one person said in the closing interviews when asked why he joined, he said it was a place to get an education without student loans! I absolutely agree!