Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Last night my old Toastmasters Club celebrated its 45th anniversary with a paddleboat cruise on Lake Lady Bird under a full moon. What a terrific night! What a terrific group of people.

Toastmasters is one of the most successful "self help" groups in the world. Are you interested in improving your public speaking skills? Join Toastmasters. Work the program and I guarantee you will see results. I joined the Get Up N Go Toastmasters Club in Austin in the summer of 1981, and attended faithfully, almost every Monday morning at 6:45 a.m. for the next 22 years. Not only did I improve my public speaking skills, I also made a host of friends from diverse backgrounds. In my professional life I have run mostly with lawyers and educators, but in Toastmasters I encountered a diverse group of people with a wide range of skills, interests, abilities and backgrounds.

As I drove home from last night's celebration, I also came to appreciate the generational mix that Toastmasters provided. This, I believe, is something we need more of in our educational system. When I joined TM I was 31 years old. Many of the members--most, in fact-- were men in the 40-60 age group. It was a delight for me to interact with this group of men none of whom were my father, my teacher, my coach, my priest, or my boss. They were, instead, my friends. Peers, engaged in a common effort to help ourselves and each other improve our public speaking skills. I am certain that it was that fellowship that remained one of the strong draws to me, and kept me coming to those early morning breakfast meetings year after year.

Last night it was the same for me...only this time I was 58, and the "old guys" were in their 70's now. And of course there were those in their 30's and 40's who no doubt saw me as one of the old fellas. Fine with me.

We need more adult men in our educational system. Young men need to simply be around older men. There is magic in it. I suspect the same is true for young girls and adult women. I am sure this is one reason why coaches have a disproportionate impact on young people. Kids benefit when they are encouraged by older people. It's really even simpler than that--I think they benefit when we older people PAY ATTENTION to them.

We need more of that. Just a thought for the day.