Community Building

By · Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Text of a recent Toastmasters speech Michael gave at Taft Camp–

Community Building

I don’t know how many of you remember studies of early Western Civilization, but on the pages of a history book that’s circulating I read a passage describing the early Greeks. As founders of the first known city, the Greeks recognized the importance of community building. They would say:

                “To live the good life, one must live in a great city.”

A great city, those early Greeks recognized, was made up of community. And a community is made up of active participation from many. The more parts of the community that contribute, the greater the community becomes.

I asked for the privilege of speaking this morning with hopes of encouraging you to join this effort that Larry, George and Dr. Gooey lead—under the benevolent sponsorship of Ms. Oliver—to build a thriving community in Taft Camp with its Monday morning Toastmaster Club. And in the spirit of community building, I’d like to offer a simple acronym that might remind us to do everything within our power to build a high-energy Toastmaster Club. That acronym is APE — A-P-E. It begins with “A”, for attitude.

When I talk about attitude, I’m referring to inner motivation. In prison, it’s sometimes a challenge to muster energy. Prisoners are separated from family, and as the days turn into weeks, the weeks into months, and the months into years, monotony can be crippling.

The best antidote and our greatest weapons for that lethargy exist in our hearts and in our minds—because our hearts and minds provide the arsenal of attitude. It is attitude that gets us up in the morning and gives us the spirit to triumph over the challenges we face. With the right attitude, we don’t just show up or toe the line. Attitude empowers us to welcome every opportunity to improve, to become better, to live a great life. And a great life begins with a great community—one we can further with our Toastmasters Club.

That leads me to P, which stands for preparation.

Great communities don’t materialize by accident. They require planning, preparation, performance. As Toastmasters, we can motivate ourselves by thinking about contributions we can make for next week’s meeting. Instead of hoping that Larry or others in our group’s leadership won’t call upon you to speak, come with a “can-do” attitude and an energy that shows your enthusiasm. Ask not what your Toastmaster Club can do for you, but what you can do for your Toastmaster Club.

One preparation suggestion might be to write a series of topics you’d like to share with the group. That’s the start of preparation. Look at the list of potential speeches frequently throughout the week. Develop ideas on how you might educate our group in an informative, motivating, or persuasive presentation. Those preparations will endow you with valuable skills, and they will enrich everyone in Taft’s Toastmaster community.

The third letter of the three letter acronym is E, and it stands for excellence.

By beginning every day with the right attitude, we can live on a journey of constant and continuous preparation for excellence. Those personal pursuits become virtues, contributing not only to a more dynamic Toastmasters Club, but endowing us with the skill to fill voids in our lives, bringing meaning wherever we are, with whatever challenges we face.

To become skillful speakers, we must work on our attitudes, we must prepare, and we must pursue excellence.  That’s A-P-E.

Live with the attitude for success, with a commitment to prepare, with a constant pursuit of excellence in this community building effort. 

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