Category Archives: Toastmasters

Toastmasters Clubs bring communities of like minded individuals together for mutual self-improvement in a secular, non political and multicultural environment of 14,000 clubs in 130 countries.

Quilt By Association

Marion, aka my father, became the wizard of Thompson Road when he brought home this monster metal box with a 7 inch TV screen and the whole neighborhood watched the 1948 Indianapolis 500. Child wise there was Nancy, Bud, Sis, Sue and me playing cowboys and Indians as seen on 7 inch TV.  Easter egg hunt and Halloween at the Society of Friends and sled riding down the only slope in the road. The quilting bee ladies added that Norman Rockwell ambiance to my childhood until June 1950 when Marion announced that we were all moving to the big city, Cincinnati.

Tocqueville believed that associations operating outside the sphere of government and economic life—what we now refer to as civil society—were essential bulwarks against any incipient democratic decay and despotism.


Alexis and his buddy Beaumont arrived by steamship on a cold as hell 24th of November 1831. They talked with Cincinnati lawyer Salmon P. Chase, who was to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a Justice McLean and Dr. Drake. Alexis tried to test their faith in democracy. Chase, the fly in the ointment of Abe’s cabinet, was the Hillary Clinton elitist snob of his day and declared the deplorables messed with his rule of the righteous.

McLean however, saw  Andrew Jackson’s campaign against the Second Bank of the United States as the best example of the ordinary population defending itself against a privileged elite.

Cincinnati was, as Damrosch writes, what Tocqueville had been waiting for: “A city with hardly any past, in dizzying transition, inventing itself with ferocious energy.” Tocqueville himself spoke of encountering “a democracy devoid of limits and measures.” “What we encountered there,” he wrote, “is all the good and bad of American society set out in bold relief.”

Alexis was impressed with the industriousness of the city and asked why there was nothing but trees on the Kentucky side? Chase, the elite, McLean, the populist and Dr. Drake were in complete agreement that the Ohio River, the Mason-Dixon Line, clearly illustrated the differences in the South’s slave economy versus the North’s free enterprise system.

Woodward High School opened in 1831 just before Tocqueville’s arrival in Cincinnati.


Alexis got back on the boat to Louisville declaring that Democracy in America had shown him that the middle classes can govern the state and he regarded Cincinnati (pop. 25,000) as a place of ‘absolute social equality.’

While among us, government meddles in everything, here there is not, or appears not to be any government at all. Alike the virtues and defects of centralization are seemingly unknown; there is no mainspring regulating the machine’s moving parts.

One such association, known as the Grange, after the end of the Civil War in 1867, helped the farmer get his fresh start after the two centuries of unintended consequences, caused by the slavery form of agricultural subsidies. 


Ever since Lincoln was shot, America’s farmers, manufacturers and merchants have tried to curry favor with the emperor and his entourage, by organizing themselves in associations. Alexis de Tocqueville, in 1835, came to the then 25 States, interviewed 200 business and political leaders, went back home and wrote his seminal work, “Democracy in America.” Tocqueville attributed America’s success in creating a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, to 1) associations of like-minded individuals, 2) a fresh start in the new world and 3) no interference from a powerful church. The United States and Mexico both were start-up constitutional democracies The Catholic Church divided the power with their colonial governments, whether they were democracies or dictatorships. Karl Rove’s Christian coalition is an example of the damage that can be done when religion is used to win an election. However, the power behind the Yankees, was their need to form associations of individuals united in a common cause. These networks of local citizens were then able to speak with one voice, on issues that were important to their members.

The farmers, after WWI, started abandoning the countryside for jobs in the cities, and formed associations of merchants and manufacturers, like Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, and Toastmasters. The first three organizations were formed to help the individual business man succeed through the contacts and social relationships formed while performing community service projects. Toastmasters started out as a self-improvement (public speaking) offering of the Anaheim, CA, YMCA.


At age fifty, following my mid-life crisis I joined Kiwanis, Lions, Toastmasters, and the late ‘30’s self-help group Alcoholics Anonymous. The Follett Lions Club was the Chamber of Commerce and the only non-denominational group in population 459, Follett, TX. ‘Vernie’ Schoenhals was the only farmer member and he was retired. We had the Texas A&M, PhD economist – I billed him as ‘the Alan Greenspan of the Prairie” – do an analysis on what the community could do to save itself from extinction. His well thought out answer was that we had a good transportation system – we could leave town by US 15 or hop a freight train. I could have called in a priest to give us ‘last rights’ but the Baptist majority wouldn’t have gone for it.

Youth retention is the number one problem in rural America. After high school graduation they all run away to Dallas, Omaha, St.Louis, Amarillo, Kansas City or Denver in hopes of finding a living wage.


Shelby Brown and her husband Teg Gregory admit to being former yuppies who gave up high-income careers — Brown as a systems analyst and Gregory as an architect — for life on the farm. Married for almost nine years, Brown, 48, and Gregory, 59, are owners of Anala Goat Co. in Beasley. The company is named after Brown’s nanny, Anala Hebert. They live without satellite television and cell phones in a trailer on 18 acres.

I joined Sugar Speaker Toastmasters when Shelby returned us back to Houston, to practice my, “why you should drive fifty miles out in the country for a $12 gallon of goat’s milk.” Maybe I should have joined the Optimist Club but as it turned out, talking out loud to your friends and fellow members has similar benefits to AA and group therapy that Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions and the Optimists can’t provide. Around midway in my stay at Sugar Speakers, Toastmasters International, began promoting itself as the world leader in both communications and leadership skills training.


My Toastmasters experience in China is different, no raised eyebrows, just a “what did he say look,” no matter what topic I was pontificating on at the time. But real leadership training, I got because I was the only Yankee Toastmaster in the club. The Marine Corps only taught me the dance steps but Toastmasters China I got to practice dancing in front of a live audience.

In China, I was not self-conscious about my dancing, communication and leadership skills because nobody from my cultural group was watching. There are 300 million young adults (80 percent women, average age 24) who hunger and thirst for the Toastmasters oral English communications and leadership opportunity. Why? So they can get a good job, make money and see the world.

Toastmasters China has grown from 10 clubs in 2006 to more than 500 today

The Grange Society is dead, domestically Lions, Kiwanis and Rotary are, ‘on the ropes’ only AA (recovery of self) and Toastmasters (self realization) are growing at home and abroad. At Sugar Speakers, the membership is comprised of merchants of service (engineers, consultants, accountants, insurance, etc.), while the membership of Beijing Advanced, Yellow River, On The Way and Middle Kingdom is primarily merchants of educational services and manufacturers of technology hardware and software.

The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) allowed Toastmasters to thrive and survive because of the Four Secular No’s. No Sex, No Race, No Religion & No Politics.

Tocqueville attributed America’s success in creating a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, to 1) associations of like-minded individuals, 2) a fresh start in the new world and 3) no interference from a powerful church.

China Toastmasters brought Tocqueville’s American success story to 1) 300 million like-minded individuals who wanted to communicate in English, 2) a fresh start in a 1.4 billion communist country with no Civil Society. 3) no interference from a powerful church of any kind.

“I Want My Mommy”

“If money were no object, I would be on a jet plane to Kathmandu!”

Three New Yorkers and a Kiwi

I love New Yorkers – the saying, “There is the United States of America and then there is New York City,” is true. It’s not that they are a bunch of arrogant you-know-what’s – it’s just their culture, it’s in their DNA to tell it like it is.  

Last week I made an extended visit to Hong Kong, to get a 30 day tourist visa, and in three days I attended seven AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings. Beijing visits are my only chance to go to AA meetings, so in my three Hong Kong days I got a whole year’s worth. 

After I had given my usual lengthy, meandering woe-is-me story about the relationship challenges of widowhood and my struggles to find the ideal love, marriage & life partner, under the title “I Want My Mommy,” One of my three New York City AA brothers immediately upstaged my ‘sharing,’ with the NYC direct translation, “Men want a mommy with sex privileges.” 

“Mr. Gregory, you no longer work here because your passport says you will be 67 when school starts in September.”

I first visited HK in 1970, aboard the USS Okinawa, which would have become famous if not for the fact that her sister ship, the USS Iwo Jima, rescued Tom Hanks and the Apollo 13 crew on April 17, 1970. My ten day stay in Hong Kong harbor came at the end of my US Marine Corps sponsored Vietnam tour, which included five months ashore in the Philippines, two months of camping on the side of Mt. Fuji and another harbor visit to Kaosheng, Taiwan. 

“Because God protects children, alcoholics and architects I was doubly blessed with three cruises in 12 months, to Mt. Fuji, Taiwan, Manila and Hong Kong.”

Fighting the Vietnam War from Hong Kong convinced me that the expatriate lifestyle was the way of my future and I should practice my ‘architecting’ overseas rather than in the boring ‘ole USA. A decade later, in ’81, my interior designer wife and I stopped off in HK on our way back from the zenith, the apogee, of my architectural career – designing Singapore Airlines’ computer center at Changi airport. 

Edificio Bretagne, Sao Paulo, Brazil, our home 1975 /78

At the time, I thought there might be many more expatriate opportunities to gad-about the orient, for several reasons. 1: three years of living beyond our means, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, had convinced me to return to my mommy’s religion; no drinking, no smoking.  Even my father decided to get on the bandwagon and join the church.  2: I got an EMBA in ’82, so prosperity and the yuppie lifestyle was just around the other side of a fully restored XKE convertible. 

“Our garden villa in ‘Blag Town‘, Ismalia, Egypt, 1985. The midpoint on the Suez Canal.”

But, No! As they say in NYC AA, or AA anywhere, “doing geography” like most alcoholic behaviors, eventually catches up with you. I had traded a leveraged trip down the Amazon for an attempt to navigate the Nile without a paddle. My Amex Gold card went through mummification, paying for a root canal by the US State Department approved dentist in Cairo.

In her book, Heal Your Body A-Z, Louise Hay, the Kongzi (Confucius) of metaphysics, who incidentally learned her stuff in New York City, labeled my tooth problem as “root beliefs being destroyed.”

On July 4th, ’93, at the Houston Post Oak AA club, and the nadir of my mid-life transition, (all mommies and daddies experience this phenomena, between the ages of 45 and 55) I got religion again, and a new mommy, a CPA Systems Analyst and a nine year veteran of AA. Now, I was confident that I was on the right path, and my mantra was the tenth AA promise, “Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.” 

The JACK of Diamonds and JACK of Clubs have a Karmic relationship; they mirror each other but the Diamond JACK is the boss.

Astrologically speaking, I was also on the right track, because my new mommy was a ‘Jack of Diamonds’ and as the ‘Jack of Clubs,‘ I was her karmic slave. I was, my mommy’s, good boy. I was living the New Yorkers dream, I had “a mommy with sex privileges.” 

Then, one late night the sheriff came out to our farm and told me that my mommy had been killed in a truck-trailer accident, on I-80, in western Pennsylvania. She had been on her way to New York to buy an emergency generator, so we could milk all the goats all the time, even in a hurricane. 

God as I understood him, or her, abhors a vacuum, especially when it comes to money and carbohydrates. After selling the farm and giving the goats, cows, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs and cat to a good home, I was financially independent for all of sixty days. Then, I had another religious experience: ‘vegetarianism,’ (not Vegan-vegetarianism, just vegetarianism), and of course, I got a new mommy, in Eugene, Oregon. 

Once again, I was certain that I had returned to ‘the way,’ after all, my new mommy and I had met each other 45 years before, on Spring break in Florida. And she had been led to Google me, six months after my mommy died. It was fate, it was destiny, I was sure that this was the ultimate Zodiacal relationship. Why, it even said right there on page 56, of Robert Camp’s Love Cards, “when the Jack of Clubs meets a Four of Diamonds, he has met the woman of his dreams.” 

However, after 13 months of spending $120,000 and losing sixty pounds, eating vegetables, Miss Eugene, said I wasn’t her idea of daddy. Rebuffed, I consulted the ‘Oracle from Frisco,’ Craig’s List, and received the divination: “teach ESL in China.” A month later, I was on my way to Zhengzhou Henan, China, to pursue my true karmic path:

Though Debrah may be the person of teg’s dreams, the opposite is probably not true. In fact, because so much of the Neptunian energy has been stimulated in teg, he may not be able to see Debrah as she really is at all. When under the influence of Neptune’s spell, we project many of our expectations, unfulfilled needs and fantasies onto our partner. 

“September Thirteenth – The Day of Passionate Care:” After separation, divorce or death of a mate, September 13 people may carry on the work shared with their original partner. September 13 people have intense physical drives and a great biological need to share their life with an understanding mate or partner who is capable of completely accepting them, along with all their foibles.

#43 The Way of Resolve: The life purpose of the individuals on the Way of Resolve is to learn how to face any challenge or problem without backing down. However, they tend to lack resolve and prefer to take the path of least resistance. Those on this path often pay too much attention to what others think, preventing them from cultivating their own beliefs. Without a more fully developed value system, they may lack a sense of self.

prefer to take the path of least resistance.

When I looked up my Karmic Path or what I had to do to be in Dharma, “prefer to take the path of least resistence” hit home.
CORE LESSON: Standing up for what they believe in or for those they love.

Last year when I turned 67 the Chinese government said they didn’t want to be my mommy any more, and I should go back home. I didn’t want to confuse them with the old Cortez, “burned my boats” idiomatic expression, so I have, quietly and expensively, been going to Hong Kong every ninety days, to re-enter China as a perpetual tourist. This is not a unique expatriate solution; my Houston farmers’ market friend, who lost his spouse a year after me, heads for the border every three months to maintain his residential status in Costa Rica.

I suupported myself as a poor man’s version of Bill Murray in “Lost in Translation.”

I was feeling quite proud of myself for going almost a whole year of living dangerously, in a foreign, non-English speaking country, without an employer and the accompanying free housing, free utilities, and almost free alien documentation. Then, on the third day in Hong Kong, after the three New Yorkers and the Kiwi had pointed out that I was certainly no emperor and  no longer had a mommy of any kind, I got really, really nervous.

What if, the Chinese embassy doesn’t renew my visa? Where am I going to live? How am I going to afford to stay even one more day in HK? My sister might love me but I don’t think she really wants to be my mommy and I’m sure my brother-in-law doesn’t want to be my daddy. Had my journey down the path of least resistence finally come to an end?

I wonder what those New Yorkers and their Kiwi brother would say. I’m afraid to ask.

How Sally Met Josh

How Josh met Sally – in Toastmasters of course. Although Josh had just spent three years teaching ESL in Japan, was fluent in Japanese, and proficient at second language acquisition how was he going to meet his ideal mate in 0.73% English speaking Mainland China?

Sally, one of those talented and provocative 0.73%ers, took to the Middle Kingdom Toastmasters stage with verve, passion and leadership excellence. Josh, a former ‘Oregon Duck’ DJ, wowed the Monday night meetings with his voice and oratorical character – like having an Obama actor to role model spoken English.

Maybe Josh would have met Sally if she had been a Chinese-English teacher at his university or maybe at a bar – nah Chinese don’t do bars. Toastmasters brings like-minded individuals together to help each other improve their communications skills. It’s like a TED/talk where everybody gets at least one minute on stage, every time.

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; what stage are you on?

Toastmasters Is Even for Old Lovers Looking for Their Lover

Toastmasters Is Even for Old Lovers Looking for Their Lover

Entering my third year of widower-hood I ventured to China in search of a mate, a damsel over forty who could speak English. That’s why I joined Middle Kingdom Toastmasters, so I’d be circulating among the English speaking Chinese crowd – you know, ‘you got to swim with the fishes’ ole boy. But, wouldn’t you know it, all the fishes were either closer to twenty-something’s or old married women.

Desperate, I made an appearance on Henan TV’s “Happy Dragon,” a match-making show with a 100 million viewing audience. An over forty shengnu (over 30 never married) was sure to find me. Find me they did. The over forty bunch – no English – the under forty crew, with or without English, weren’t shopping for +65 old geezer like me. Would you believe it they thought 35 was over the hill in any language.

Then one evening an over forty princess showed up at our fall speech competition. Her spoken English delivery was better than a skirt wearing Ted Cruz could muster, so obviously improving her communications skills was not her first priority for attending. Other than conversing with her fellow expat ESL teachers there were few opportunities for birds of a feather to flock together in the middle of Mainland China.

Beautiful, single, over forty, native Iowa accented American English, my dream future was in front of me. My first interrogatory question to her was what’s your perspective on +65 old geezers like me? Praise Ralph Smedley, the creator of Toastmasters in 1924, it was affirmative. Toastmasters is for even old lovers looking for their lover.


UCLA research has shown that only 7% of communication is based on the actual words we say. As for the rest, 38% comes from tone of voice and the remaining 55% comes from body language.


Trump got where he got on ‘bigotry’ content which was a more universal message than ‘banning planned parenthood.’


  • Posture: open hands, arms at side, relaxed stance
  • Body Movement: move with a purpose, work the room
  • Facial Expressions: sad, mad, glad
  • Eye Contact: make z-pattern eye contact with individuals
  • Gestures: conventional, descriptive, shoulder



With the Chinese name Ding Weiliang, William Alexander Parsons Martin (1827-1916) was a significant figure in the last years of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Born in a Presbyterian family in Indiana, Martin made his mind to study theology and came to China as a missionary in the 1850s. Because of cultural and linguistic obstacles in spreading Christianity, he started to learn Chinese and read through Chinese classics such as ShangshuThe AnalectsBook of Changes, and Book of Songs, and thus became an old China hand.

I became an economic refugee to China just before the fall of Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008. I responded to a “Teach ESL in China” posting on Craig’s List and shortly thereafter I was confronted with 900 seventh graders in 21 batches of 45-60 students each week at Zhengzhou Foreign Language Middle School. My whole intellectual edifice regarding Mainland China revolved around Hop Sing in Bonanza reruns, until I read Jung Chang’s first two books, Mao and Wild Swan.

By 2015, I was no longer dependent on teaching English as a Second Language for my daily bread and chose economic migrant status in Antalya, Turkey.

Tucked away in our shipment of forty boxes from China was a paperback version of Jung Chang’s third book Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China. After polishing off two biographies of Ataturk and 900 pages of the Ottoman Empire, I opened the Empress Dowager Cixi to discover the history of teaching ESL in China.

Dr. Martin arriving  in NYC in full siege costume. Passport control  was more lenient with open carry regulations circa 1900.

Due to his deep and broad knowledge of Chinese culture, Dr. Martin was recommended in 1865 by Anson Burlingame (Pu Anchen), the American diplomatic minister to China, and Thomas F. Wade (Wei Tuoma), the British diplomat, as the third president (Zongjiaoxi) of Jingshi Tongwenguan (Tungwen College, or the School of Combined Learning), the first government school for teaching Western languages in late Qing Dynasty.

Jung Chang makes history informative, insightful, intriguing and easily digestible, much like Doris Kearnes Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Of course, I doubt without my ESL experience, I  would ever have touched Mao, Wild Swan and Cixi with a ten foot reading glass past my Hop Sing view of the world.

The WAR OF The WORLDS movie is coming to an end

Humans have been telling the same stories for millennia. Author Christopher Booker claims there are only seven basic plots, which are repeated over and over in film, in television, and in novels with just slight tweaks.

There is the

  1. “overcoming the monster” plot (Beowulf,War of the Worlds);
  2. “rags to riches” (Cinderella, Jane Eyre);
  3. “the quest” (Illiad, The Lord of the Rings);
  4. “voyage and return” (Odyssey,Alice in Wonderland);
  5. “rebirth” (Sleeping Beauty, A Christmas Carol);
  6. “comedy” (ends in marriage);
  7. “tragedy” (ends in death).

I’m betting on number one, “overcoming the monster” plot. There are several nominees for the monster character. Obama goes for Climate Change. Trump has at least three  of his own, ISIS, China and Muslims. Hillary tried to save us from the Monster but she wasn’t sure who or what the Monster was.. My feeling is it’s the Money, Honey.

Our Four Generation Psychodrama has entered the Resolution phase 2004 to 2026. Conflict/Exposition 1946-1964 ended with the assassination of JFK. The Rising Action 1964-1984 led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall. The Falling Action 1984-2004 could be characterized as the quest for a New World Order. This global live action Psychodrama is supposed to be concluded by 2026. Like any movie, the last Act, the inevitable Resolution has got everybody’s attention trying to figure out how it will end.

The previous American Fourth Turning Classics were resolved in a manner that left America in a better place. The American Revolution drama 1704-1794 gave us George Washington as our first president. This was followed by the Civil War 1794-1865 where Abe Lincoln played the lead as well as produced and directed the save the Union flick. The preceding bonanza the Great War Years  1865-1945 was brought to an abrupt ending when Truman dropped the bomb.

Resolution phase of the AMERICAN REVOLUTION 1773-1794 has George Washington becoming the first president on April 30, 1789.

Lincoln closed out the Resolution of the CIVIL WAR period 1860-1865 by attending Ford’s Theater one last time.

Harry Truman’s term in office ended the War II and the GREAT POWERS 1929-1946 documentary. Our movie, WORLD OF WARS, the one with a cast of 7 trillion began in 1946. No sooner had we finished the preceding classic, 80 years in the making , the GREAT POWERS, electing “I Like IKE” as president we released our prequel the “Korean Police Action.”  Period: June 25, 1950 – July 27, 1953

In 1953 Sister Sue and I were being dragged through the Blue Ridge mountains in Marion’s ’47 Plymouth and what did we know or care about the 38th parallel or the meaning of an armistice? Fifteen years later in 1968 on my way to Vietnam via Travis AFB, I visited Sister Sue in Haight-Ashbury.  While our fellow WHHS alum, Jerry Rubin, was saying, “Hell no, we won’t go!” I reaffirmed my belief that God protected drunks, children and architects at least long enough for me to vote for Reagan.
ACT II of the WORLD OF WARS spans from 1964 to 1984 Rising Action to Climax on the standard Plot Line Template. Reagan won – do you believe the actor from Bedtime for Bonzo is president – gave his Star Wars speech on March 23, 1983, welcomed Gorbachev in 1985, told him to tear down this wall” in ’87 and the wall came down in ’89. Truth is stranger than fiction, the world thought the movie was over but that was just the Climax, ACT III Falling Action and ACT IV Resolution were still to come.

ACT III 1984-2004 The search for a new world order or maybe the decline and fall of the American Empire. No more world war but the beginning of mini wars everywhere. Fifteen new nations to argue about Race, Religion, Sex, Politics and Money – the important things in life.

  1. Armenia
  2. Azerbaijan
  3. Belarus
  4. Estonia
  5. Georgia
  6. Kazakhstan
  7. Kyrgyzstan
  8. Latvia
  9. Lithuania
  10. Moldova
  11. Russia
  12. Tajikistan
  13. Turkmenistan
  14. Ukraine
  15. Uzbekistan

Osama Bin Ladan got the WORLD OF WARS going big time with the help of Bush and Cheney taking us into ACT IV the Resolution.

So far on our Resolution watch 2004-2026 we have been at war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. The World Trade Center towers came down in 2001 but Wall Street crashed in 2008. Greenspan, Bernanke and Yellen have tried to put it back together again with trillions – no one knows exactly how many – of thin-air money. Nobody has a job that pays enough to pay the rent, the refugees are running willy-nilly through Europe and nobody knows what to about it except Trump.

There you have it, timing is everything our “overcoming the monster” plot, re-titled WORLD OF WARS is drawing to a close. Trump takes office 20 January 2017, he could finish in 2024 as the Superhero President. If he can’t do it, then it’s the LAST PICTURE SHOW.

Trump June 14, 1946 + 75 =  2021 if he follows the Bernie script it’s over. Only in Trump’s case he’s already made it through the 2020 election and meets his FATE on the steps of the Capitol on 6 January. 2021.