Archive for 1996

“Get Me to the Church on Time”

This speech won third place in our club for the 1996 Humorous Speech Competition. Time: 5 to 7 minutes


Get Me to the Church on Time




Everyone likes to think they’ll be remembered for something. I’d like to be remembered as a great public speaker, wouldn’t you?

My friend Cynthia was anxious to be remembered, but not quite in the way it turned out.

It all started with the wedding invitation. Cynthia was excited because she hadn’t seen her friends since she had left work 10 years before. She wanted to make a good impression so she took great care in wrapping her wedding gift in shiny gold paper with lots of trailing ribbons.

Her husband Larry carried the big box out and set it on the roof of the car while he opened the door. Cynthia settled in the front seat, looking ravishing in her new red outfit.

“Oh, Larry,” she said. “I do hope they all remember me.”

Larry grinned as he started the motor. “No one would forget you, Cynth.”

He peered over his shoulder. “Hey, Cynth, keep a lookout on your side. I can’t see past the washing you’ve hung in the carport.”

Cynthia looked back. “It’s OK. Keep going straight. Whoa, stop! Oh, Larry! You’ve pulled down the clothesline. All my clean washing is on the ground.”

“She’ll be right,” said Larry. “When pick it up when we get home.”

The man next door looked up and waved frantically as the old car chugged up the road. Cynthia cheerfully waved back. She sighed happily.

“I’m really looking forward to this wedding. I do miss my old friends.” She started to sniff.

“Good heavens,” said Larry. “Don’t start crying now.”

“I’m not,” said Cynthia. My eyes are watering. I must be allergic to something.”

Larry frowned. “Uh, Oh! I forgot take that old torn feather pillow to the dump. It’s still on the back seat.”

“Oh, Larry!” Cynthia’s reproachful gaze was lost on him as he merged into the stream of traffic. “Why is everyone going so slow?” she asked. “Can’t you overtake them?”

Larry shook his head. “Not in this old car. Anyway, it’s a solid line of cars right up to that big black…..Oh, No!”

“Now what?”

“We’re in the middle of a funeral procession.”

“Oh, Larry! We’re supposed to be going to a wedding, not a funeral.”

“And so we are.” Larry patted her leg. “Don’t cry, Cynth. We’ll take the next turn and get out of this.”

“I’m not crying.” Howled Cynthia. “Its those blasted feathers. They’re flying around the car now. Ah..ah, choo!”

“Here we go.” Larry took the next turn down into the main street. So did the car behind him and all the others following them. Cynthia was frantic. “Ah, choo! Larry, can’t you go faster and shake them off?”

“No way,” said Larry. “This old bomb won’t go any faster. See if you can wave them back.”

Cynthia wound down the window. “Go back. Shoo, shoo! Ah, ah, choo! Larry! The feathers are blowing out of the window and down the street. Oh, this is terrible. Ah, choo! Look at the people on the footpath staring at us. It’s so humiliating.”

“Don’t worry,” said Larry. “We’re nearly there. Just round this corner…..Hey, look, there’s the bridal car in front of us. We’re just in time.”

A large crowd gathered in front of the church as Larry and his cortege pulled up behind the bridal car. Everyone gasped as the beautiful bride stepped out of the car, but their eyes were not on the bride.

Cynthia crumpled in the car, sobbing, her face swollen, her eyes and nose red and her hair full of feathers.

“I wish I could die,” she sobbed. “I’ve never been so mortified in all my life. Nothing, absolutely nothing could make me feel more humiliated than I do now.”

“Aw, come on, Cynth,” coaxed Larry. “You’ve been looking forward to this wedding.” He climbed out of the car, covered in feathers.

“Hey, Cynth! We didn’t put the wedding present in the car!”

“What! Didn’t we bring it?”

“Oh yes, we brought it. It’s on the roof!”

As Cynthia scrambled out, something dropped to the ground at her feet. She stood frozen in horror, as she gazed down tar her knickers on the ground.

“It’s just a bad dream,” she whispered. “When I open my eyes, they’ll be gone.” But there they all were…. all her undies on the ground, together with Larry’s socks and singlets, each tightly pegged to the clothesline that had been caught in the car door since they left home.

Cynthia stood numbly as her old office colleagues bore down on her, their faces registering shock and amazement.

“You needn’t have worried Cynth,” Larry grinned. “No one will ever forget you!”



COMMENTSI think this speech would have worked better if told in the first person.

Comments (2)

“Freedom to Choose”

Speech No. 10 in the Toastmasters “Communication and Leadership” Manual

Date presented: 26 Nov,1996

The objectives of this speech were:

  • To understand the mood and feelings of your audience on a particular occasion.
  • To put those feelings into words and inspire the audience, using all the techniques you have learned so far.

Time 8 to 10 minutes.

Freedom to Choose

For every action, there is a reaction. You hit your thumb with a hammer. You say “Ouch!” – or it’s quite likely you express your feelings more eloquently. You might react by flying into a rage and fling down the hammer. You might yell and blame someone else. Or you might wait till the pain subsides, then pick up the hammer and start again. You act according to your personality and have no power to act otherwise…… or do you?

If someone offered you a thousand dollars if you changed your attitude, would that give you more power? I think most of us would quickly learn to control our emotions if we thought we had something to gain. The truth is, we do have the power to choose our reactions. It is not what happens to us that shapes our lives, – it is the way we react to it. Hitting you thumb is just one of life’s little irritations. But what about the big problems? How do we react to conflicts, serious illness, financial problems, accidents – death?

Someone once said,“The essence of greatness is the ability to choose personal fulfillment in circumstances where others choose madness.”

Stephen Covey tells the story of Victor Frankl who was imprisoned in a Nazi death camp. Frankl suffered indescribable torture and indignities but he became aware of something his captors could never take from him. He called it “the last of the human freedoms.” It was his freedom to decide within himself how all this was going to affect him. He had the power to choose that response. His captors had more liberty – more options to choose from in their environment, but he had more freedom – more internal power to exercise his options.

We don’t have to be victims of circumstances. We have the power and freedom to make a conscious choice about how we react to our circumstances.

We don’t have to be slaves to our emotional reactions. Of course, we shouldn’t ignore our emotions. When things go wrong in our life we hurt. We feel pain, anger, disappointment frustration. This is normal. Emotions are integral to our humanity. We need time to acknowledge our feelings and work through them.

Like Mike in the daily comic strip “For Better or Worse.” One day he said, “Man, sometimes it seems as though your whole world collapses at once, doesn’t it?”

“Sure does,” said his mother, “And when your life falls apart you sift through the pieces, pick up the stuff you need, discard the stuff you don’t and start again.”

“I know,” said Mike, “but you gotta stare at the rubble for a while first.”

Sometimes we need to stare at the rubble for quite a while. It’s part of the healing process. But gradually we must learn from it and move on.

Sadly, some people spend their lives still staring at the rubble. An old lady I know is still nursing grievances from her youth. She keeps them bottled inside her, pickled in vinegar and serves them up to anyone who visits her. It takes a lifetime of practice to become as bitter as she is!

I know another old lady who is a joy and inspiration to all who know her. She has known tragedy and hardship, but like Frankl in the Nazi camp, she has transcended her circumstances. She has exercised her freedom to choose her reactions!

How can we choose our reactions? Can we really take responsibility for emotions that surface spontaneously? The answer is quite simple. I found it in Catherine Marshall’s book “Beyond Ourselves.” Feelings are real, but they are not reality. Our emotions are not the real us. There is something within us, behind our emotions, behind our inclinations – an independent self that decides everything and controls everything.

The motivating force in our lives is….. our will.

If we set our will in the right direction, our emotional reactions will trail behind. Sometimes it will be a long way behind, but eventually, they will catch up.

If you are willing to be happy, you will eventually feel happy.

We only become brave if we are willing to act bravely when we are afraid. One of my friends has learned to cope with a loveless marriage by making the decision to be loving. She has discovered that love, as Stephen Covey puts it, is a verb. Love, the feeling, is a fruit of the verb love. So it is with our will. What ever we will to do is a verb – an action – our emotional reaction is a fruit of our will.

So it is up to you. Are you going to be a victim of circumstances, or will you choose how you will react.

Will you throw down the hammer and give up, or will you use it to build a stronger character.

The choice is yours.

I felt enthused about the topic, because it was something I really wanted to let my listeners know. I think it was successful.


“Seek to Understand”

Speech No. 9 in the Toastmasters “Communication and Leadership” Manual

Date presented: 24 Sept,1996

The objectives of this speech were:

  • To gather accurate, up-to-date information on a subject
    so you can expand your knowledge and that of your audience.
  • To write a speech based on the insights gained from your research.
  • To read the speech before the audience in an interesting, lively and meaningful manner

Time 7 minutes.

Seek First to Understand

What is the difference between a man and a beast?Sometimes it is hard to tell – but the most important characteristic that sets man apart from all other creatures, is language. The ability to communicate through spoken or written words.

Through words we can touch one another’s minds – and yet it is strange how seldom and how fleetingly our minds meet. Most of us have not learned to communicate very well.

Nathan Miller once remarked that “conversation is a competitive exercise, in which the first person to draw breath is declared the listener.”

A lot of people I know take this competition very seriously. They plunge determinedly into conversation, hardly surfacing for air while their listeners flounder in the wash of words.

Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to reply. They’re speaking or preparing to speak.

“Oh, I know how you feel.” They tell us. “Let me tell you about my experience.”

Psychologist Jesse Nirenberg says, “When each person struggles against the other to use the conversation for his own purposes, each feels frustrated by the other. Since both are struggling for the same thing, each is too tense to listen attentively to the other. As a result, all that each gets is the time to talk, but not the attention of the other person.”

We all need to be listened to, to be understood, to be appreciated. If someone is to influence us, to receive our confidences or give helpful advice, we must first feel that he really understands us.

In one simple sentence, Stephen Covey sums up what he feels is the most important principal in interpersonal relationships. It is this:

“Seek first to understand. Then to be understood.”

In his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Covey relates a conversation with a frustrated father.

“I can’t understand my kid,”said the man. “He just won’t listen to me.”

“Let me get this right.” replied Covey. “You don’t understand your son because HE won’t listen to you.”

“That’s right,” agreed the man.

“I thought,” said Covey, “that to understand another person, You needed to listen to him.”

“Oh,” said the man. “Oh, yeah! But I do understand him. I know what he’s going through. I went through the same thing myself. I guess what I don’t understand is why he won’t listen to me.”

This man had no idea what was going on in his son’s head. He looked into his own head and thought he saw the world, including his son. Many of us are like that man. We think the other person views the world through our own frame of reference.

We wouldn’t expect our reading glasses to suit someone with a different visual problem. Why should we expect our point of view to fit them? We need to keep in mind that the other person has different experiences, different values and a different way of looking at things. He is even likely to use different words to say the same thing.

Words mean different things to different people. One night my son was telling me about a science fiction movie he’d seen.

I commented. “You like watching weird things.”

He said, “You’re so negative! Everything you don’t like is ‘weird’.”

I tried to explain that by “weird” I meant “Off beat”, “supernatural”. In an attempt to mend the rapidly deteriorating communication, I asked him what his favorite movie was.

He told me and I said, “Oh, that dreadful thing! I didn’t like it at all.”

Is it any wonder he doesn’t bother communicating with me? I realise now, I was being judgmental. He took it as a personal criticism of his taste in movies.

Psychologist Carl Rogers says, “The major barrier to communication is the natural tendency to judge, – to approve or disapprove of the statements of the other person.

Judging tends to diminish the other’s self esteem. It triggers defensiveness and can lead to withdrawal.

I hadn’t even realised I was doing it. As Robert Bolton says, “It’s like suddenly knowing the enemy and finding out it’s me!”

We must seek first to understand the other person. Accept him from his viewpoint as we encourage him to express his ideas and feelings. Not only are our relationships likely to improve, but a lot more of what we say will get through.

Seek first to understand; then maybe you will be understood.


I found this speech very hard to write. I think it was because I was referring to too many sources and trying to paraphrase what other people had written on the topic rather than telling my own story. However I did gain some personal insights while researching it.


“Change the Future”

Speech No. 8 in the Toastmasters “Communication and Leadership” Manual

Date presented: 11 June,1996

The objectives of this speech were:   

  • To present a talk that persuades the audience
    to accept your proposal or viewpoint
  • To achieve this by appealing to the audience’s self interest
    building a logical foundation for agreement,
    and arousing emotional commitment to your cause.

Time 5 to 7 minutes.


Change the Future

What is the most precious thing in all the world? It is your child. Your child and everybody’s child is the future. You couldn’t bear the thought of anything bad happening to your precious child – could you?

Can you imagine how you would feel if you couldn’t afford to feed your child properly and had to watch him grow sicker and weaker? What if you were so desperate, you had to sell your child to someone you thought could offer him a better life? How would feel if you later discovered you sold your little girl into a life of prostitution, or that your son had become a shackled slave?

For millions of parents, this is not just a nightmare; it is a grim reality. An article in the Los Angeles Times reports that there are eight hundred thousand child prostitutes in Thailand alone. India has up to 55 million child laborers.

Most of them are illiterate. Many are shackled to prevent them from running away.

What if it was your child?

While our kids go to school, watch television, play computer games, an estimated 100 million children live and die n the streets of the world’s cities. They beg, sell newspapers, or shine shoes or they work as street vendors, prostitutes or drug traffickers.

Some live on rubbish dumps, scavenging whatever they can to sell to provide their next meal – while our kids waste enough in their lifetime to feed an entire Asian village for months.

Don’t you wish you could do something to redress the imbalance – this horrible injustice?

I’m going to tell you how you really can make a difference. You can provide a child with food, clean water, health care and education. You can give him a future.

How? By sponsoring a child through World Vision.

It will only cost you $31 a month. That’s just $1 a day. Less than a chocolate bar or a can of soft drink.

World Vision is a Christian development aid agency operating in over 90 countries. It was founded in 1950 by an American doctor, Bob Pierce.

World Vision doesn’t just relieve the symptoms of poverty; it deals with the causes – so when you sponsor a child, it doesn’t only help that child. Sponsorship funds are pooled so that the whole community benefits.

It’s 23 years since I became a child sponsor. The first child I sponsored was Hae Joo. He was a serious looking Korean boy who loved detective stories. He lived in a Leprosy village, because both his parents had the disease. Through World Vision Sponsorship, the people in the village raised pigs and cows and grew vegetables. They built their own school and gradually replaced their shacks with cement houses. Finally they became self-supporting and World Vision was able to move to another needy area.

I now sponsor Mutugi in Kenya. Mutugi’s mother used to spend three quarters of her day walking 10 kilometers to fetch water for her family. Now, thanks to World Vision’s water development programme, she can care for her family and grow vegetables to sell.

That’s what World Vision Sponsorship is all about … changing lives…. Changing futures.

Helping people to help themselves.

You can become part of World Vision’s efforts to bring justice to the world.

When you become a child sponsor, you will receive a folder with your child’s photo and personal details. If you wish, you can exchange letters with your child. They will be translated. Annual reports will inform of your child’s development.

You may be wondering how much of the money actually gets there.

World Vision spends only 7% on administration, 17% on fund raising and 6% on community education. That means 70 cents of every dollar is spent on relief and development projects.

Sponsors are welcome to visit World Vision projects and see the evidence for themselves. One of my friends visited her sponsored child in Bangladesh. She was warmly welcomed by the family into the house that World Vision had helped to build. Through an interpreter she talked with women in the project and came home to tell us, “Yes, the money does get there.”

For only $31 a month (tax deductible) you too can bring hope to a child and the community around him. Just fill in the coupon in this brochure. You won’t regret it.

You’ll be helping to change the future.

Somewhere out there a precious child needs you.



This one was successful. I find it easy to speak about something I really believe in.


“Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”

Speech No. 7 in the Toastmasters “Communication and Leadership” Manual

Date presented: 9 April, 1996

The objectives of this speech were: 

  • To bring together and apply the skills learnt in the preceding projects.
  • To organize the speech in a logical manner
  • To research facts needed to support the speech.

Time 5 to 7 minutes.


Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

The big bad wolf has stalking me for most of my life. He lurks in shopping centres, bank queues, and busy streets. One of his favorite haunts is along the highway where he lies in wait for me to drive along it.I feel him watching as I approach the roundabout. What if he gets me this time? My heart flutters frantically as the fear escalates. I turn up the car radio, hoping to distract the wolf, but he grabs me, almost crushing so I can hardly breathe. He snarls menacingly as I pass under the bridge, but just as he is about to devour me, I emerge, light headed on the other side.

The wolf had me bluffed for a long time, but I’ve finally recognized him through the writings of Dr. Claire Weekes. The name of the big bad wolf is Agoraphobia. Dr Weekes explains that although the literal meaning of the term “Agoraphobia” means fear of the market place”. It is actually fear of what the market place represents – loss of safety, of losing control. It is a fear of fear. Agoraphobics avoid any situation they fear will set off a panic attack.

The wolf first attacks when his victim is most vulnerable. He may creep up insiduously during an illness or time of stress or he may strike rapaciously in cases of shock such as an accident or operation. He snared me during a childhood illness. although my symptoms were mostly physical, they were exacerbated by a fear of the feelings that arose from within. I was a prime candidate for Agoraphobia.

There are three ways a victim might react to the big bad wolf. I chose the most common one.

FLIGHT. Flee from all situations that might cause panic. Avoid any place the wolf may be lurking.

For years I avoided driving on the highway after having a panic attack on that particular stretch of road, but finally necessity made me fight the big bad wolf.

This is the second way of dealing with him.

FIGHT. Don’t give in to the panic. Meet the wolf head on.

With grim determination and dread I drove on that road every week, then one day I decided to kill the big bad wolf!

I drove through the roundabout and under the bridge. I made a U-turn in the first side street and did it again – and again – until the wolf was flushed out of his hiding place. Then I went home rejoicing. The wolf is dead! The wolf is dead!

He hasn’t bothered me since then. Did I really kill the wolf? I can now drive on that particular highway, but there are still other places I avoid. I may eventually flush him out of those places, but he will reappear somewhere else. Simply getting used to one difficult situation after another won’t kill the wolf.

I have to learn how to cope with the actual symptoms of panic, not merely the situations in which they occur.

Which brings me to the third and only effective way of dealing with the wolf.

FLOAT. Claire Weekes explains it in her book, “Simple Effective Treatment of Agoraphobia” “Floating resembles accepting. It means to go with feelings of panic, offering no resistance, just as if floating on calm water. The wolf is most vicious when he first strikes but if you relax and stand your ground, he quietens and disappears.” Let him come, but practice passing through the panic without being afraid of it.

True acceptance means even welcoming panic as an opportunity to practic coping with it. (I still haven”t attained this state, but it will come with time.)

One day the big bad wolf could huff and puff at your door. Just remember –

FLIGHT is useless. As long as you run, the wolf will keep coming after you.

FIGHT only increases tension and produces more panic.

Just FLOAT. Accept the panic. Float past the unpleasant feelings. Panic will cease to come only when it no longer matters.

There’s no need to be afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.

COMMENTSThis one was very successful. Personal experience is always the best source.
I was afraid it might be a bit too personal! At least they understand now why I need a lift if we are attending Toastmaster functions outside our local area!


“I’m Speechless!”

Speech No. 6 in the Toastmasters “Communication and Leadership” Manual

Date presented: 13 Feb, 1996

The objectives of this speech were:  

  • To gain an understanding of the functions and uses of the spoken word
  • To select precisely the right words required
  • To communicate your ideas clearly, vividly and appropriately
  • To avoid common mistakes in word use

Time 5 to 7 minutes.


I’m Speechless

I hate to say this, but I feel like quitting Toastmasters. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the meetings – on the contrary, I look forward to them with eager anticipation. So why this sudden change of heart?You’ll find the reason on tonight’s programme, where it has my name down for a Hot Spot* speech.

I’m not blaming anyone! I volunteered to give a speech. I had chosen a topic months ago and was looking forward to displaying my command over words. So when I finally sat down to set my thoughts on paper, I expected them to simply flow onto the page. But what happened? Nothing!

No problem, I thought. I’ve just chosen the wrong topic. I wrote a snappy introduction for an entirely different speech. And then, nothing!

I was becoming just a bit apprehensive, but I forged ahead and tried another topic. The blank page told exactly what was in my mind. I felt the goosebumps rise as the horrible realisation crept up on me and suddenly grabbed me. This was to be my sixth speech, but by some cruel quirk of nature I had been born with only five speeches in me.

What a fool I am! I should have guessed last meeting when I floundered at Table Topics. All this time I’ve been passing as normal among Toastmasters who progress through their 10 Manual speeches and earn their C.T.M. badge, then they go on to obtain A.T.M.s and D.T.M.s**

How long would it be before they discover I’m just a 5 Speech Toastmaster? Oh, the shame and embarrassment! What is a person like me doing in a Toastmasters Club?

Hold on, I thought, Maybe I could go on bluffing a little longer if I could squeeze out something – anything – that sounded like a speech.

I grabbed a fresh page. At the top I wrote the title of my speech. I underlined it. Then I drew a box around it. I decorated the edge with scallops. I filled in the “O” and the “D”.

Underneath I wrote my shopping list.

My tabby cat jumped up and lay across the page. I tied my list to a piece of string and played with the cat.

The postman offered a reprieve. I took the latest “Reader’s Digest” from the letterbox. Ah, surely I’d find inspiration there. Each article would have made a great speech. If only I had thought of it first. But what can you expect from a 5 speech toastmaster?

I spent the afternoon reading the Digest.

Next morning I looked at the crossword in the paper. Why hadn’t I thought of that before? Crosswords stimulate the mind and improve the vocabulary. But this was evidently a trick crossword. The clues were easy enough but it didn’t have the right number of squares for my solutions.

Now I was really worried. Not only had I used up all my speeches, I was also running out of words.

Frantically I reviewed my 5 speeches. If only I’d known, I could have spread them over a longer period. If I’d just used one a year I could have masqueraded as a Toastmaster for 5 years! And look at the topics I’d chosen. I had squandered my birthright on frivolous subjects. I should have made every word count.

It’s not fair! Someone should have warned me. There’s no mention of such a possibility in the “Communication and Leadership” manual.

I reread the manual right through. The basic outline of a speech sounds quite simple – for normal Toastmasters.

“Plan your opening” it says. Capture their attention and lead into the topic. Hmmmm…. I read on.

The body of the speech should have 3 points. But my mind is in such confusion, I don’t know what the 3 points are!

I’ll just have to confess that I’m a 5 speech Toastmaster. I thought I’d get your attention by saying I feel like quitting. Then I’d explain that the reason is because I’ve made this awful discovery. Next, I’d tell how I tried to get around it, and then I’d tell what I’ve decided.

I’ll conclude by saying if you don’t mind having a 5 speech toastmaster in the club, I won’t quit just yet. At least not until I’m due to give the next speech!


*A Toastmaster in the Hot Spot has to fill in for someone who is unable to perform their allotted task that night.
**C.T.M. Competent Toastmaster. A.T.M. Able Toastmaster. D.T.M. Distinguished Toastmaster.


This speech is not a good example of working with words. I had an acute case of writer’s block. This feeble effort was just a better option than no speech at all.