Toastmasters International Speech Contest 6 (March 24, 2011)                                       Walk In DignityOn the D...
Toastmasters International Speech Contest 6 (March 24, 2011)Martin Luther King Jr., a 26-year-old preacher and newcomer to...
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Walk In Dignity


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This is a speech I will be giving at the Walker Talker Toastmasters Club on March 24, 2011 for the club\'s International Speech Contest. The speech\'s theme is public service and self-accountability.

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Walk In Dignity

  1. 1. Toastmasters International Speech Contest 6 (March 24, 2011) Walk In DignityOn the Discovery Channel on Monday was a documentary about the two weeks of brutal drillsand exercises Army cadets must endure to be selected for the Green Berets.During this training, the candidates are routinely tested beyond their mental and physical limits.As they discover new frontiers within themselves, they also must learn how to successfully workwith each other as a team.The teams that fail are the ones whose individual soldiers failed to work together, who put theirexhaustion ahead of the team, who put their fear ahead of the team, or who put their egos aheadof the team.Their story of success and failure can be a metaphor for our country today. Across America,individuals, families, and communities are being tested beyond their mental and physical limitsas we recover from this Great Recession.President Barak Obama has compared today’s challenges to others faced by the United Statesthrough the decades – beginning with our fight for independence, the Great Depression, andWorld War II.Those events – like today – have tested the strength of our nation. In his 2010 State of the UnionAddress, Obama went on to say that “despite all our divisions and disagreements, our hesitationsand our fears, America has prevailed because we chose to move forward as one nation, as onepeople.”But will we move forward together this time? Will we succeed as individuals and as a team orwill we – like more than half those Green Beret candidates – raise the white flag and quit thechallenge before us?In mid-February, in response to that week’s Toastmasters theme, I was asked my thoughts aboutresistance to change.My response was about my concern with our collective pass-the-buck attitude toward personaland social problems, whether it is fighting hunger, education reform, or finding a job.I observe this attitude too often. We expect others to take on the problem. “Let someone else doit, I’m too busy” we may say. “How am I going to help people get jobs?”When do we say to ourselves: I can make a difference? When do we say to ourselves: Togetherwe can make a change?And I do believe we can make a change if we put aside our exhaustion, our differences and ouregos to work together regardless how difficult the challenge.A few weeks back, PBS aired Eyes on the Prize, a documentary about the Civil RightsMovement.I watched as the show told the story of how one 43-year-old seamstress on Dec. 1, 1955 refusedto give up her front row seat to a white person and move to the back of the bus.Frustrated by inequality and the lack of action by state and federal governments – and also bytheir fellow Americans – Rosa Parks’ arrest sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott where 50,000blacks – about half the Southern city’s population – chose to walk, bike or share cars rather thanride the segregated buses. 1
  2. 2. Toastmasters International Speech Contest 6 (March 24, 2011)Martin Luther King Jr., a 26-year-old preacher and newcomer to the community – soon becamethe face of the boycott and the Civil Rights movement nationally.In a 1957 interview with NBC, King said of the Montgomery black community, “They felt itwould be more honorable to walk in dignity than ride in humiliation.”King and the Civil Rights movement were influenced by the work of Gandhi and the Indianpeoples fight for independence from Great Britain.More than 50 years later, both King and Gandhi have influenced and inspired the protestshappening these past few months throughout the Middle East.King once said there comes a time when we each have to stand up and make an account forourselves.This week, Wael Ghonim, a 30-year-old Internet marketing executive, was recognized as one ofthe recipients of the 2011 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.Caroline Kennedy in announcing the awards said, “Wael stood up when it counted.”As Ghonim watched the January uprising in Tunisia gain steam, he posted a question on apopular Facebook page, “Would others join him in a protest in Egypt on January 25?”Tens of thousands did, streaming onto the streets of Cairo and bravely facing down riot policeand successfully demanding President Mubarak end his more than 30-year reign.Afterward, in a 60 Minutes interview, Ghonim said the success of the Egyptian revolution wasdue to the unselfish contributions by all Egyptians who stood up and stood their ground inAlexandria, Aswan and at Cairo’s Tahrir Square.But you don’t have to face down racism or dictators to make a difference in the world.Oregon Ducks sprinter Keshia Baker enlisted help from fellow athletes this past year to bringafter-school athletic programs to budget-challenged schools.Oregon Food Bank volunteers donated 93,000 hours last year, helping pack and deliver morethan 415,000 emergency food boxes.And my Leadership Beaverton classmates and I will soon arm ourselves with hammers andshovels to build a shelter at the Beaverton Family Resource Center so that our neighbors waitingin line for help can do so protected from the Oregon elements and maintain some dignity.The Green Berets have a motto that humans are more important than hardware. What thisattempts to embody, wrote Command Master Sgt. Matthew Caruso of the 27 th Special OperationsWing, is the idea that relationships are paramount in any endeavor. It means individuals mustform a team before they can tackle a mutual goal. It means treating each other with values thatencourage teamwork, trust, and goodwill.Life is hard, it’s uncertain, and it’s unfair. Is accepting the challenge hard to do? You Bet. Will ittake a long time and likely deliver setback before success? Probably. Is it worth it? Absolutely.Just ask Rosa Parks, Wael Ghonim, or Keshia Baker.When the time comes to make an account of yourself, when you are needed, are you going tostand up as they did?Let us all walk in dignity. 2