Public Speaking – a Progressive’s parable

Public speaking: the art or process of making speeches before an audience.

Progressive: one that is interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities, one believing in moderate political change and improvement in the common good thru governmental action

Parable: a simple story illustrating a moral or religious lesson.

Toastmasters: a non-profit educational organization that has been teaching public speaking and leadership skills since 1924, with 11,500 clubs in 92 countries. Toast is not involved. Nor is toasting, though I could get into that!

Once upon a time there were a few people in my community who were so upset about the election, and re-election (inconceivable!) of the Current Occupant of the Oval Office that we decided something had to be done. We believed that our own people had had their asses handed to them on a platter because the Republicans had figured out how to talk to voters much more effectively than we did.

(We strongly suspected it was all a pack of lies concocted by Orwellian geniuses like Karl Rove and Frank Luntz, but still, the voters fell for it.).

We had read a book by linguist George Lakoff, Don’t Think of an Elephant, which for the first time explained what had happened, and what progressives like us had to do to get back in the game (and it did NOT involve lying or Orwellian machinations).

We got together about 50 like-minded souls and explored these new ideas in a series of workshops. But we still didn’t feel confident at speaking out.

So 25 of us created a new Toastmasters club where we could practice public speaking about such touchy subjects as politics and moral values (from a progressive perspective) on a weekly basis.

Our club just celebrated its 3rd anniversary, and we’ve learned how to speak effectively about difficult topics. We’ve graduated many competent communicators, gotten members elected to public office, made deep friendships. Now we’re floundering a bit – a victim of our success, even.

Suddenly the worm has turned. Republicans are on the run everywhere! It’s not just that progressives all across the country are better at communicating what we stand for; it’s that the conservative agenda imploded because it was ill-conceived to begin with and Americans are finally realizing it.

The fight to restore our democracy and save the planet has just begun, though. We need fresh foot soldiers to carry the message, share action plans, and make sure the good guys get elected.

If you’d like to be able to communicate your values more effectively in this crucial election season, consider joining a Toastmasters club near you.

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