Toastmasters Leave their Legacy throughout the World

Stephen Covey says, amongst others, that the essence of human fulfillment is to leave a legacy. This we can do in many ways. Obviously, if we have children, then the legacy we leave will be in the hearts and minds of those children. However there are other places where we can leave our legacy; within our workplace, our extended family and of course in the hearts and minds of those who are our fellow Toastmasters.

To be conscious of this role in our lives is to maximize the outcomes in both ourselves and others. To be aware that this is our responsibility and consciously act on this responsibility,  is to develop our potential as a communicator and a leader.

As part of our membership of Toastmasters, we have multiple opportunities to leave a legacy.

Some of us, as Toastmasters, will have opportunities to leave this legacy in different groups. I have the privilege of working for many groups both within and outside Toastmasters, and I take this responsibility very seriously. We all should, when we are approaching the opportunity to speak at either a club meeting or an event outside Toastmasters.

Generally I believe it could be said that we prepare very thoroughly when we have an ‘outside’ speaking engagement. But this may not be the case when we have an assignment at a Toastmaster’s meeting. If we are to leave a legacy within our clubs, then we need to prepare for our manual speech assignments with as much commitment as if we were speaking to an outside audience. By preparing in such a manner, we are respecting the time gifted to us by our club members, and we are maximizing our potential, and therefore our capacity to leave a legacy. This legacy will be the impact we leave with our listeners after we have delivered a well prepared speech.

There is another aspect of being toastmaster that has the potential to leave a legacy. This is in the art and science of evaluation.

Evaluations are at the core of our growth as a leader or as a speaker. I would never have been able to become World Champion of Public Speaking had I not been able to access clear, analytical and incisive evaluations.

When giving an evaluation, your task is to make the other Toastmaster the best they can be. Your task is not to make them another you, or to change their essence so they look like or become a clone or someone else.

Perhaps this is best explained in this short story. In Australia we have a tradition that means whenever we meet formally, particularly when it involves government, that time is taken to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land upon which we meet. This means acknowledging the Indigenous who were here before the European settlement. This acknowledgement is called “Welcome to Country”.

On one particular occasion, the Aboriginal speaker who was presenting the ‘Welcome to Country”, showed the audience a rock, an artifact.  Within the quartz rock a small amount of water had been trapped. The owner of the rock had rubbed and rubbed the rock so one side was flat and smooth. A small amount of water was visible through the quartz. This rock could have been used for many purposes, including perhaps determining the level of an object. The speaker then said that if the owner of the rock had rubbed the rock so much that the water was exposed and evaporated, the rock would have been just like any other rock.

So it is with our evaluations. Our task is to help the other Toastmaster become the best they can be, without taking from them their originality, their person, their essence. When we do this we leave a legacy that is most appropriate for the other Toastmaster.  We ‘rub’ them until they become what they can be. That is our task. That is our obligation. That is our gift when we give an effective evaluation.

But of course, there are other roles that could learn from this lesson; a teacher, a parent, even a government.  The current government in Australia has made it obligatory that we should test school students in just about every year level throughout their schooling. With such a rigorous and demanding test regime, teachers are forced to compromise their profession, and teach to the test, so that their students can do well in these tests. Schools are measured by their performance on these tests. In effect, teachers are ‘rubbing’ their students in a way that ignores their individuality, their uniqueness.

The absurdity of this regime is brought to light in one of the schools of which I was principal. We too had to do the tests, but as principal, I had a healthy disdain of their worth, their validity and their reliability, so little pressure was brought to bear on teachers to hijack the curriculum. However we compromised and our students sat the test. Not to do so was to bring forth the wrath of the demigods that were the bureaucracy and the political masters. It truly is educational reform driven by fear.

Our children, who had been learning in their classrooms which were living, relaxed and vibrant environments, were suddenly asked to sit in orderly straight confined rows of desks. One child, who had a diagnosis of some degree of autism, sat at his desk, in an environment which was totally foreign and unfair, was given the test paper, and proceeded to eat it.

Sometime soon, the demigods will remove this ridiculous burden from our classrooms, and once again our teachers will be able to teach, and when they do, they too will leave their legacy.

A parent needs to ensure they do not fall into the same trap. Each of their children is unique, and needs to be ‘rubbed’ so that they can become the best they can be.

In summary, we have multiple opportunities in which we can leave a legacy.

In Toastmasters, we can do this by preparing the best we can for our speaking assignments, and we can also do this by giving evaluations which enables the other to become the best they can be.

In your workplace, you can do it by committing to the personal professional development of those with whom you work.

In your families, as parents you can maximize their potential by ensuring they remain unique. After all, as Gibran says, they are but strings to your bow.

May I wish you all the very best for your Toastmaster journey. It is an amazing organization, and you make it so.

Mark Hunter

World Champion of Public Speaking 2009.

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