Let Us Begin

By Ting Chee Kheong (Club's International Speech Contest 2009)

John F Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, in his Inaugural Speech on January 20, 1961, said: “All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”

Good Evening ladies & gentlemen, Mr. John F Kennedy is of course referring to the greater cause of uniting the Americans when he made the speech. He is talking about a greater Vision, and the important thing is to start the journey.

For the new toastmasters among us, my congratulations. You have already started the journey. But fret not, the toastmasters journey will not take more than a lifetime for you. In fact, there is a distinct path for you to take to achieve the highest level, the Distinguished Toastmasters.

For the seasoned toastmasters among us, my congratulations too! For those who have achieved DTM or doing their 2nd or 3rd round of DTM, fret not too. You have not reached the end of the toastmasters journey, but merely carrying on the mission & vision of our founder, Mr. Ralph C Smedley, whom in 1924 at the basement of YMCA in Santa Ana, California, founded the toastmasters movement.

For guests, or first time visitors to a toastmasters club, my congratulations as well! You have taken the first step in your own journey to learn public speaking, and I sure hope to see you around.

John F Kennedy spoke about beginning a Vision, and so as toastmasters, do you know what is the Vision of Toastmasters International?

Well, as quoted from the TI website, it is stated “Toastmasters International empowers people to achieve the full potential and realize their dreams. Through our member clubs, people throughout the world can improve their communication and leadership skills, and find the courage to change.”

I certainly hope that your reason of joining a toastmasters club is aligned with the Vision of Toastmasters International.

For I have seen people who joined a toastmasters club for Power, Prestige and Popularity.

Power because TI offers an organizational structure where you can have executive powers in running a club, an area, a division, a district or even the entire TI movement as an International Director.

Prestige because TI offers speech contest like this where you can excel and perhaps even been known as the World Champion, let alone a club, area, district or division champion.

Popularity because TI offers great networking opportunity for you to meet your personal or business agenda.

My fellow toastmasters please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that there is anything wrong in pursuing the 3 “P”s – these are inherent in the TI system and there is nothing wrong with the system that has worked for over 80 years.

My only plea, my friends, is that while pursuing the 3 “P”s, let’s not forget the 4th “P” – propagating the Vision of Toastmasters International.

Whether you are serving as an officer for Toastmasters International, or representing your club, area, division or district in speech contests, or networking within the movement, let’s not forget that we need to empower people to achieve their full potential and realize their dreams. Let’s not forget that we are here to improve our communication and leadership skills. Let’s not forget that we must help each other find the courage to change.

Whether you are a seasoned toastmaster, or a new member, or even a first time visitor, I plea with you that together, we can achieve great things through a great vision.

And so, as John F Kennedy said in the same speech: “ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country”

I appeal to you: Ask not what the toastmasters club can do for you, but what you can do for the toastmaster’s movement.

Whatever is your current position, wherever you are, let us begin.