Monday, September 22, 2008

"Ignorance Is A Cancer"

A few months ago, after coming to the conclusion that public speaking would be a requirement for world domination, I decided to join Toastmasters at work. I paid my dues and received a Practical Guide to Becoming a Better Speaker, some other leadership guide that I haven't looked through yet, along with some other general info. The Practical Guide is like the Toastmasters text book. When it came time to deliver my first speech, I flipped through the book and a section about rhetorical devices caught my eye. The sample sentence for "Simile" was: "If we deny our children an education, ignorance will grow like a cancer." The sample sentence for "Metaphor" was: "Ignorance is a cancer that must be cured." And I thought how odd of a sample sentence. The words are so in your face....for a freakin' SAMPLE sentence. Pretty intense opinion to waste on a damn sample.
Anyway, I threw together my first speech and this is how it went (theme for the meeting was "Back to School"):
You all should see what you all are wearing...or not wearing...in my head right now.
I struggled a little bit with our theme this evening. I'd written something when I first joined about facing your fears and getting out of your comfort zone. I used to work at Disney in characters and being the center of attention is a lot easier to do when you're hiding behind fur and a big fiberglass head.
Going back to school is sort of like being the center of attention for everyone whether we want it to be or not. All eyes are on you - "How was your summer?", "What did you do?", "You look different since last year", etc.
There's so much lead up to the first day of school. Shopping to be done, supplies to gather, first day outfits to plan, and bus schedules to follow.
When my brother was in elementary school, every single year on the last night of the summer before the first day of school, I'd be getting ready for bed and could hear my brother sobbing in his room. I'd duck my head in and ask him what was wrong. "I....I....I...d-on't want...t-to go t-t-to......t-to school..." I'd holler for mom and she'd come upstairs to talk to him and then head to bed myself but without crying.
It was sad and cute when he was in K-2nd grades. By the 3rd, 4th, & 5th grades, it was just silly and we'd laugh about it - sometimes while he was still crying.
He was always scared of the first day of school.
I was kinda the opposite. It was new and exciting - A DAY TO CONQUER!! And weapons for battle on that day were new shoes, a different hair style (and/or color), makeup!, and in high school, if you'd gotten a job over the summer, it was your first car.
The summer before 12th grade, I'd started working at Disney and found myself in need of reliable transportation. My dad, being the car guy he is, took me out shopping for an old beater Mercedez Benz. My reliable transportation was a 1979 240D in robins egg blue. It had the best diesel engine ruckus ever and was a complete tank.
The first day of my senior year and we were all sitting in our first class getting settled and saying the Pledge.
There was a PA announcement for a "blue Mercedez Benz with its lights on in the student parking lot". One of the guys in my class stirred in his seat and half way stood while saying, "Ha...that's MY car.", joking as if he were a baller with a Benz. I quietly stood up and walked past him to leave the classroom and go turn my car lights off.
That was my only truly victorious first day of school story I could recall.
So, when I think about today's theme, I also think about the original speech I wrote out about over coming fears. A lot of us are sort of like how my brother was - crying the night before they have to step out of their comfort zone and do something like this or having to present during account reviews. But then there are those of us that just sort of jump in and get it done and over with, which is pretty much why I'm standing up here this evening. After over coming my fear of clowns a couple years ago (therapy for that was Halloween Horror Nights and lots of rum), I decided I should overcome the next thing on my list - which is speaking infront of an audience. So, here I am and I hope I did ok with minimal "uhs".
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And my fellow Toastmasters were kind enough to vote me Best Speaker of the evening.
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