Speech No. 2 in the Toastmasters “Communication and Leadership” Manual
Date presented: 27 Sept,1994
The objectives of this speech were:
- To convince the audience of your earnestness,
sincerity and conviction on a subject.
- To confront any nervousness.
Time 5 to 7 minutes.
I watched him die.
I looked on helplessly as he struggled to breathe. They put tubes in his mouth and nose. They searched for veins in his wasted arms and gave him blood. He moaned as they drained the poison from his swollen belly. Finally they wrapped his lifeless body in a blaket and covered his wizened old man’s face.
He was 25 days old.
I sat in front of my television set and wept with his anguished mother as she cradled his limp body. I longed to comfort her. How could I reach out to a woman in far off Pakistan? How could I know the depth of her suffering?
Who killed Kasseim?
Could it have been….his mother?
But she loved him! He was her first child, after 14 years of fruitless marriage – the long awaited fulfilment of her dreams and hope for the future. Could she have killed him?
She believed she was giving him the best care when she weaned him onto an expensive milk formula.
But when it cost more than she could afford – did she over dilute it?
When clean water was scarce and expensive to buy – did she draw it from the river, contaminated with raw sewage?
Did she have enough money to buy fuel to boil the water?
And when Kasseim inevitably succombed to diarrhoea – could she give him the correct dose of medicine, when she had never learned to read?
Or did the Health Worker kill him, when she introduced the mother to the milk formula – surely she knew that a bottled fed baby in a third world country is 14 times more likely to die.
“Just in case your milk fails,” she told the grateful mother, as she handed her a sample of highly promoted, expensive infant formula. Was this a kind act? – or an insidious ploy to undermine breast feeding?
Was Kasseim killed by the manufacturers of the formula, when they ignored the International Code of Marketing? They promoted their product in clinics and hospitals, making gifts to doctors and health workers who recommended the formula, even though in a country like Pakistan, the lack of refrigeration and sanitation means that a baby will suffer from 10 to 12 bouts of diarrhoea before his first birthday – if he lives that long!
Did they killl him, or was it the doctor, who derives most of his income from the medicine he sells. When the distraught mother brought Kasseim to him, did he prescribe a potent unnecessary drug?
Did the drug company kill him? When they refused to withdraw their anti-diarrhoeal drops – drugs that had been banned in the western world when it was proved that they caused intestinal paralysis, toxic shock and death in young babies?
Who is responsible for half a million babies in Pakistan alone, who die unnecessarily each year from diarrhoea and dehydration?
“Oh, God,” I cried, as I watched Kasseim die. I don’t know if it was a prayer or accusation.Can we blame God for man’s inhumanity and greed?
Soon after this television programme was aired, one drug company did withdraw the Drops. Public pressure finally caused at least one infant formula company to heed the International Marketing code.
It was too late for Kasseim.
But I had heard about the practices of these Multinational Companies several years before. I was going to protest – but I was too busy – too apathetic.
Did I kill Kasseim?
It seemed to go over well. I wasn’t quite so nervous presenting my second speech, but I still felt shaky for the rest of the evening and couldn’t get to sleep for hours after I got home that night!