What Does It Mean To Be a Toastmaster?

(It has been a while...and for that I apologize. It's been a crazy month with assignments and we have just wrapped up our club Toastmasters Installation Ceremony;  I am now officially Vice President, Public Relations for the year 2012/2013 yay! 

I have always been a fan of public speaking and at the installation ceremony I addressed the gathering on the topic, "What does it mean to be a Toastmaster?". It was my very first speech in a formal setting, (not a competition, debate, MC-ing situation  vote of thanks etc) and I was rather nervous. But I am rather proud of my speech so I wanted to share it here)

Good evening to our Chief Guest Dr Pitigala Arachi, the Patron of APIIT Toastmasters Ms Neha Prashanthi, Our Division Governer Ms Siranthi Salgado, Guest Speaker Sandun Fernando, lectures, parents, friends and most importantly Toastmasters

What does it mean to be a Toastmaster? I struggled long and hard to find an answer. It means many things – it means that you are a leader, a public speaker; a person committed to betterment of oneself and others, a team player – the list is endless. But in what does it really mean to be a Toastmaster? Is it just about giving speeches?

There is a famous fable my father once told me, which tells us about three kinds of people that inhabit this world. And no, it’s not the famous example of the optimist, pessimist and realist. And it was in this story that I found the answer to my question – what does it mean to be a toastmaster.

The story goes as such – In an unnamed place, just beyond the town borders was a stone quarry where three men worked all day cutting blocks of stone. One evening the men become aware of a stranger who has wandered into their midst. He watches the men at work for a while and then approaches the first man.

“Tell me my friend,” he says “what are you doing here?”

The first man responds, “It is my job to cut blocks of stone. I am not passionate about my job, it is not my dream, but I am paid to be here from 8 to 5. It is what I need to do”

The stranger then turned to the second man and asked him, “And tell me good sir, what is it that you do?”

The second man pulled himself up proudly and responded, “I am the best stone cutter in the entire region. Look at my blocks of stone, look at their precision, their shape. They are perfect. I cut the most perfect blocks of stone for miles around”

Finally the stranger turns to the third man and asks him the same question. This time he is met by a smile and the man points into the distance.

“See that clearing? The stones I cut will build a church there”

There are three kinds of people in this world. There are those like the first stone cutter – who are competent perhaps, who do the job – but beyond that there is nothing more that drives them. They do what they have to do, but lack the passion and fire that pushes us from being good to great.

The second stone cutter represents the second type of people. The people who are obsessed with brilliance and excellence in what they do. They are obsessed with perfection and pour all their time and energy into achieving this. These people often fail to see that there is a world beyond their limited confines. That their role is not the beall and endall of everything.

But it is not these two stone cutters that help us answer the question – what does it mean to be a toastmasters. It is the third man. The one who sees the bigger picture. Who sees the contribution he makes, for what it is – a brushstroke on the canvas of life perhaps – but a brushstroke that has the potential to change the very nature of the painting.

And this ladies and gentleman is what it means to be a toastmaster. We are trained in so much more than the art of public speaking and leadership. What we learn is so much more than how to rise in career ladders and improve our networking skills.

When you become a part of toastmasters, you start by joining a club. You soon realize that your club is part of an Area made up of other clubs. That Area is a part of a Division made up of other Areas. The Division in turn makes up a District, that is one of 89 others, which make up a massive international organization of over 260,000 members across 133 countries.

Toastmasters has produces leaders, pioneers and dreamers. It has produced extraordinary people, thinkers and leaders. Toastmasters have gone on to make their brushstrokes extraordinary, to change the face of life’s canvas.

What it means to be a Toastmaster is simple. It means to look at the world beyond the borders that we know and push further than we think we are capable. When we give speeches – we are taught that great speeches come from looking beyond the ordinary, the mundane. When we are taught leadership skills, we learn how to lead others, how to teach, how to function as a part of a great machine.

It is with immense pride that I, the incoming committee and our members stand before you today giving ourselves the title of Toastmasters. Because it means so much more than giving that perfect toast. Thank you. 


Anonymous said…
Sharanya, Great Speech!
- Rohantha

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