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The Roo Principle

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Mark Hunter.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God

It will shine out like shining from shook foil-

It gathers to a greatness like the ooze of oil


The Grandeur of God


These words from the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins describe the inherent beauty that lies in nature, which to the eye that takes time to observe it, will be as obvious as the heavenly scent of a gardenia bush in full bloom. But not only will it be obvious, its beauty will grow on the observer with the certainty of oil oozing under the pressure of the persistent press.



Off the deck at my new home, I have the opportunity to be privy to the social behaviours of a mob of kangaroos- seventeen in all.


They are in themselves a reflection of the grandeur of God. …and my wonder has slowly gathered to a greatness, definitely, like the ooze of oil crushed, whilst I have had the privilege of observing them.

The mob comprises of one dominant male, many does, and a number of joeys.

My observations without their permission, initially felt to me like an uninvited intrusion into their personal lives. It’s as if I was watching a natural reality television show, with all of its dramas, its emotions and intimate revelations. However after several weeks of invasion of their privacy,   the roos would just note my presence……. and continue about their daily routines in silence – in their silence and in mine.

Elected silence, sing to me

And beat upon my whorled ear,

Pipe me to pastures still and be

The music that I care to hear.

The Habit of Perfection

Hopkins in this poem speaks of the impact of silence. Some who write of this poem say that it could be about a young woman entering a convent, or a young man entering the priesthood. While that was in my past some 35 years ago, to me the silence that hovers over the social interactions of the kangaroos is a music that portrays their uniqueness. There are times in our lives when, as my mother used to say, “the silence was deafening”, but here, on my deck, the silence speaks quietly of a music I care to hear.

And in this silence I continue to be the voyeur………………..

The buck, or dominant male, is like any male when it comes to wooing the does in his mob. He is a persistent, consummate, amorous lover, demonstrating affection in a most remarkable manner. Gentle pawing of her neck, tail, and front paws; sidling up to her with a disturbing blend of innocence and lust. But there is one difference between the buck and his human counterparts. ‘No’ means definitely ‘No’. In this particular reality television show, I have seen the most perfect demonstration of “ I have got a head ache’, when a doe, tired of the vain attempts by the buck to woe her, lay down, and gave him an exquisitely defined cold shoulder.

Throughout my observations, I witnessed all the productive human behaviours you might like to list: including reprimand, love, romance, supervision, care and respect….even a little frustration!

Most fascinating has been the development of the joeys, which spend considerable time, after birth, in the mother’s pouch. The almost embryonic joey,  once born is  just centimeters long. It climbs up the mother’s stomach, until it finds the pouch, climbs in, and attaches to  a teat, until it is time to venture from the pouch itself.

From my decking, I have seen joeys which are almost 90 centimeters tall, still using the pouch…… This pouch served the needs of the young joey, the size of our thumb, and the mature joey, who at times exits the pouch, runs around, like a new puppy, and then crawls back into the pouch, sometimes to the mother’s obvious dismay. When it enters, legs and the tail can be seen to be hanging out. At times the joey will stick its head out of the pouch, and feed while the mother herself is feeding. What an amazing environment.

It is here I would like to leave the reality that unfolds before me each day as I sit upon my deck. I leave because I have become fascinated by the amazing capacity of the kangaroo pouch to adapt to the changing size and needs of the joey as it develops. The environment created is functional, safe, and secure without being rigid. How remarkable!

It is well defined whilst being flexible. It is certain without being restricting. It protects without suffocating.   It nurtures without force feeding. It challenges without risk.

It is in this environment that the joey can reach its potential … can become what it needs to become. To do what it needs to do.

We, as individuals, all exist in multiple social environments. Our family, work, clubs, organizations, church, and other varied social constructs.

Some of these are like the joey’s environment. Some are not.

I remember my time as a child and adolescent in a church in which I was brought up. This environment was rigid. It was stifling. I was force feed. It had no flexibility. Who I was capable of becoming became incapable of realization. I was lost in this environment. My potential ignored.  As a result, I soon learnt that I did not fit, so I fled.

Some environments are perfect for potential.

The kangaroo pouch is one such environment.

Our Toastmaster clubs need also to be so. They need to be a natural environment in which we can all develop no matter what our capacity for both leadership and communication. Some new members arrive through our doors at what could be called embryonic levels; others could do so demonstrating skills of the developing adolescent. No matter the capacity of the new member, the club environment needs to reflect the needs of the member, and so it needs to have all the qualities of the joey’s pouch:  functional, safe, secure, flexible, certain, protecting, nurturing, and challenging.

But this environment, that is perfect for potential, must also be flexible enough to meet the needs of the more experienced Toastmaster. Rigidity in programming and in expectation can result in the creation of an environment which does not meet the need of the experienced Toastmaster. A lack of knowledge of the aspirations of the skilled Toastmaster can also result in a less than perfect environment for these members who are hungry for, or needful of, further development in both leadership and communication.

So how can a club leadership team ensure the club environment has all the qualities of the joey’s pouch – for all its members? The answer lies in reflection and deed;   reflection upon the current reality with regard to the club’s ability to cater for the needs of all of its members. But alas, awareness is not curative on its own. It needs to be wedded with deed. Once aware, we need to act, and our actions need to recognise the developmental requirements of the member – their wishes – their aspirations.

Once acted upon, then the environment can truly reflect the remarkable natural world which is the joey’s pouch.

This symbol for an environment which is perfect for potential, can be translated to other social constructs like our families, our churches, our sporting clubs and so on.

But permit me to remain with the Toastmaster Organization. This organization is committed to development of leaders around the world. In each of these clubs in every one of over a 100 countries in which people meet under the Toastmaster banner, there are members who are pursuing greatness – their own greatness – a greatness which has such a personal definition. In the pursuit of their own greatness, they are charged. Their greatness, given the right environment will ‘shine out like shining from shook foil’. And if we take the time to be there with them, their journey ‘will gather to a greatness like the ooze of oil crushed’.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God

It will shine out like shining from shook foil-

It gathers to a greatness like the ooze of oil



Mark Hunter

Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking 2009.

Leave your Legacy

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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.

Leave your Mark

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In an earlier post, I shared that I had found the three posters that hung on my wall as a principal of many years.  The first quote was: To have a sense of your own worth, you have to do something that is worthy of your own respect first.  Chin-Ning Chu.

The second quote that found a place on my office wall as a school principal, was one from Mauriac: “No love, no friendship can cross the path of our destiny without leaving a mark on it.”

If we accept the premise that we are all teachers in some time in our lives, and I am sure this will be acceptable to all), even if the profession does not choose us, then this quote should find voice in our lives.

As parents we are teachers, and we need to teach.  As leaders, we need to use the principles of effective pedagogy in our leadership, and when we do, we teach. Even as strangers, we can also teach. How many of us have been touched by the actions of a complete stranger?  Sometimes a stranger unexpectedly enters our lives, our space, our moment, and in a foreign moment of intimacy, they leave us wiser, more informed or even experiencing the extraordinary feeling of a chanced love.

In all of these instances, a mark can be left on the life of another. In all of these instances, there is a teacher.


As a principal and a teacher, I have always wondered why in the multitudinous piles of bureaucratic paperwork  that are constantly written and rewritten  about our (Queensland- Australia) very large education system, what we do as teachers and how we do it, including our supposed espoused values, two words never seemed to appear…love and wisdom.

The reason is easily understood when we realize that we have ‘commodified’ children. We have made them into commodities which we measure in almost every year of the schooling. We have taken children and made them students, and love has no place when this happens, and without love, teaching becomes a series of processes to ensure conformity of product ….. conformity of child. Without love, we just leave  stamp, we don’t leave a mark, and I would far prefer to leave a marks on a child’s life, than a stamp that says, ‘pass’ or ‘fail’.

All this measuring rests on the faulty belief that if we measure it enough, a child will improve…… a bit like saying the more we measure a cow, the more milk it will yield……. if it were only that easy!

Teachers need love in their work if they are to leave a mark on their children that is more than a simply measurable piece of bureaucratic or politician necessity …  after all:

We can’t form our children in our own concepts; we must take them and love them as God gives them to us. Raise them the best we can, and leave them free to develop’- Goethe

…. and of interest is that fact that our performance will be measured by the children we create, and  ultimately they in  turn will judge our performance.


So how does this quote apply to the world of business?  I see many instances of where the antithesis is paraded in the media and marketing. Most examples of this revolve around business folk who operate upon one primary driver, that of money. They are easy to identify. Some of their behaviours include: (i) They cannot be present with you – they are always looking for their next sale or their next potential customer (ii) Their language is dominated by the language of money. For example: ‘Buy now and save’ ….. , ‘If you really want to be successful, you need to buy this’ …. or ‘for you I have a special deal’. Predominant in their language are words like: sale, save, buy, need, product, me, my, I am, and finally,  (iii) Their body language is temporary, their smile- plastic, their presence – absent.

Look for those in business whose being is driven by love/friendship. They are there.  I see many.

A perfect example I encountered in my last visit to Canada. I met a fellow Toastmaster, a business woman whose very being felt as if it was driven by care/love of the other…… for me. When I was in her presence, I was IN her presence – she was present with me. I left her presence with a mark on my destiny……. it was awesome…. she was awesome.  These individuals live the essence of Mauriac’s quote. It is easy to see it in their body language, and the choice of language itself.

In conclusion, I am please to admit that I had this quote on my wall, as I lead many schools around the state of Queensland. I spoke freely and openly that love was a primary driver in my role as a principal….. Many of my colleagues commented positively that I was so open about this.

I encourage you to reflect upon the worth of Mauriac’s words …………… in your life ….