Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Overcoming Terror

Mike Huckabee, of all people, backed up what I said a couple of months ago about a certain approach to the issue of abortion. I wrote that the Romney view ("let the states handle it, as they did before Roe v. Wade") was a little like Stephen A. Douglas' view of slavery. Huckabee said the same thing, but in response to Fred Thompson. Make sense?

They say the thing which scares people more than any other thing is the prospect of....speaking in public. I come from a whole tribe of people who have largely licked that problem by having little children speak almost from the time they can speak at all. It works for the Mormons reasonably well, but what about the rest of us?
Well, there's Toastmasters International, set up about eighty years ago to help folks develop speaking skills and, in the process, overcome the terror. I've been a member (at about a dollar a week, for over twenty years. Every club is a little different, but the idea is to get practice in front of a small group of friends you trust until you're ready to take your stuff to the next level.
Here's what you would find in a normal meeting. There could be ten to twenty people attending, and the meeting assignments (which rotate to different people each time) include:
The Toastmaster - He doesn't say very much, but it's his job to see that the meeting is organized and rolling forward. He makes introductions and lets you know what's coming up next. This assignment, I have found, is much harder than it appears, if done correctly.
Speakers - Give prepared speeches lasting up to ten minutes or so. Notes are permitted, but reading the speech is frowned upon. Topics are pretty open.
The Table Topics Master - He/She asks questions requiring 1-2 minute spontaneous responses. The responses, called "Table Topics", may or may not be difficult.
The Wordmaster - Gives us a word which might be a bit of a stretch to use in conversation, but shouldn't be unheard of.
The "Ah" counter - Actually counts nonword speech, including "ah", "um", "er", and Reagan's favorite, "Well". This person might also raise questions of grammar and usage in a report given near the end of the meeting.
"Evaluator" - In two-three minutes, gives a critique of a prepared speech. It should include compliments as well as suggestions for improvement.
There are other assignment, too. The whole idea is to make progress in speaking something you do with friends. They HAVE to listen, as do you when it's their turn. They can construct their own written critiques, which the speaker retains for future reference. Every meeting should be FUN, and has failed if it doesn't meet that simple test. I keep going, not so much because I have speaking assignments, but because I enjoy the time I spend with these (sometimes) new friends.
My friends. I urge you to do as I have done. Join the Toastmasters International. Do it for the love of your family and country! Do it for the friends who are obliged to listen. Do it - for yourself!


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