Fellow Toastmasters and Medium Audience…
I joined Toastmasters on November 24, 2006. It was because of my training in public speaking that I am far more confident in my day-to-day life. I’m going to use this story to talk about some of my favorite speeches. I delivered over 100 speeches since I joined. I will never forget how I was enriched by nearly 12 years of experience. I won’t forget my champions, nor will I forget one particular person who was a huge antagonist of mine. She will be making some cameo appearances on this list. Here they are!
10. What Should Be Legalized
I never shied away from controversial topics during Toastmasters meetings. One example was a speech I gave about legalizing marijuana. I argued that it’s a huge commodity and that as a huge cash crop, it needed to be traded on the free market. It would improve our global economy, provide healing to the sick, and ultimately allow our farmers to harvest such a crop. On top of that, I argued that it was far less dangerous than alcohol. My evaluator was against its legalization, but she was completely swayed by my arguments. She changed her mind. It meant a lot to me that I could persuade someone to change their stance on a current issue.
9. Dot Comma
This was a particularly emotional speech about suicide. Dot comma refers to the combination of punctuation marks which make up the semicolon. The semicolon is a symbol representative of surviving suicide. I shared my experience with the Toastmasters audience and did so uneasily. Please refer to the “A humble request” post on Medium. This speech was in response to somebody saying that I was too crazy to kill myself. Little did she know I’d give a story about that attempt. She found a way to discredit me by objecting to my use of the word ‘damn’. Yes dammit, because dammit it’s just that damn offensive. Hot damn! Should I give a damn? HA!
8. Jeopardy! Audition
There was one time I auditioned for a little quiz show called Jeopardy! After passing the online test, I was called in to try out for the show. There was a written test, a mock game, and an interview session. Had I not seen Jesus Christ Superstar three days before the audition, there would have been one question I may not have gotten right during the mock game. The category was The Bible and I had to fill in the blank: Luke 19:46“ It is written, my house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of” these people. I immediately rang in with “What are thieves?”
7. Be My Guest
One longstanding tradition in my house involves creative expression. As a gift, I got a coffee table book with blank glossy pages. I called it the guestbook. During a Chanukah party in 2013, I opened the book up for people to draw, write, paint, etc. It is now 2018 and this year, the book was retired. Every page was filled with excellent pieces of art and writing which I will always treasure. This was like my equivalent of the story, “Stone Soup”. Everybody communally contributed their respective talents to this guestbook. For this, I am truly grateful. The guestbook resides in my attic as a time capsule.
6. The Edith Kramer Evaluation
Edith Kramer was a pioneer in the field of art therapy. She established an evaluation for developmentally disabled children to assess traits such as fine motor skills and color conceptualization. There were three parts to this: drawing, painting, and sculpting. Part of learning about this process was taking the evaluation ourselves. With a pencil, I drew a bunch of vegetables I was looking forward to planting in a community garden. With watercolor, I painted an orange tree in the heart of Israel. The sculpture got deep though. With clay, I made a figure of myself in army fatigues and it had no arms. It wasn’t an amputee, but the arms were bound in a straitjacket. I also had a blue shoebox in which I kept these art pieces. I designed the inside of it like a padded cell to further illustrate how I felt in the moment. I was mourning the loss of my dad and used that figure to demonstrate the lack of power I felt and the level of hopelessness which pervaded my sentences. It was a very emotional speech, as I was recalling how I felt in that moment while I gave it.
5. Stereotype Assassin
In Staten Island, there is a public access show called Toastmasters In The Community. I delivered this speech on the show regarding how we are compelled to judge books by their covers. It was also a direct response to a certain woman’s constant remarks about my appearance. Whether this was a well-received speech from the people at home is uncertain. It was a message which needed to be delivered. There is more to me than meets the eye.
4. The Pulse of Orlando
Being a member of the LGBTQ community, I felt the need to opine on this subject. In 2016, there were 49 people shot at a gay nightclub called Pulse. It was especially meaningful not just because I am bisexual, but because it happened a day after my father’s memorial. One snafu I ran into was that it wasn’t an inspirational speech like the manual called for. I might have been having a bad day and made an error of judgment. In all seriousness, I would have been remiss if I didn’t cover it.
3. Bullying and Its Evolution
Around the time a girl from Staten Island took her own life, I gave a speech about how bullying exists throughout our lives. I touched not just upon how this girl was bullied, but also how bullying exists in the workplace. I especially noted in a political sense that today’s bullies are tomorrow’s politicians. It opened with a clip from Born This Way by Lady Gaga and took a turn toward how we can heal and how we can stop bullying. Ultimately, we need to lead by example.
This was one of the most important speeches I ever gave. For ten minutes, I spoke about how difficult it was to find my voice throughout life. It started with me not speaking until the age of 4 and led to stretches of self-consciousness through my youth. I gave myself an opportunity to read a monologue from The Glass Menagerie. It wasn’t the one I read in a monotone voice during a drama class, but one which was more evocative. However, there was triumph. I talked about how I got involved with poetry open mics and became a Toastmaster. It physically stunned me as I was recalling all these memories.
1. 27 Years Later
This speech was about my father and Nelson Mandela. Both died the same year. I talked about how my father was able to vote in then first free election for South Africa…while living in America. I mentioned how people with South African passports could vote at the United Nations. My father took that opportunity and was part of the landslide majority which elected Nelson Mandela in 1994. This brought the African National Congress to power and Apartheid was a thing of the past. Dad ran into a friend of the family at the UN. He was a flight attendant for South Africa Air who voted in the election during a layover in New York. Jazz musician Hugh Masekela was present, expressing his amazement at the turnout and the record number of ballots counted by legions of South Africans.
By far, this was the most important speech in the history of my career as a Toastmaster. I gave this speech for the Area in the International Speech Contest and won first prize. When I got to the Division, the applause I received was the longest applause of the night. I did not place, but I take comfort in the reception. The antagonist in my life claimed it was my hair. I claim that she was an insufferable and deranged human being who couldn’t truly be happy for anybody.
Fellow Toastmasters and Medium Audience.