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.

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 WORLD OF WARS 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.


                                         Toastmasters Is for Lovers

“The greatest gift one can give to another is to reveal himself,”  – Aristotle.

“Speaking in public is all about revealing oneself,” – teg.

Aristotle believed that by nature humans are social beings. Aristotle also suggested that relationships were based on three different ideas: utility, pleasure and virtue. People are attracted to relationships that provide utility because of the assistance and sense of belonging that they provide. In relationships based on pleasure, people are attracted to the feelings of pleasantness when the parties engage. However, relationships based on utility and pleasure were said to be short-lived if the benefits provided by one of the partners was not reciprocated. Relationships based on virtue are built on an attraction to the others’ virtuous character. Aristotle also suggested that relationships based on virtue would be the longest lasting and that virtue-based relationships were the only type of relationship in which each partner was liked for themselves.

Toastmasters opened membership to women in 1973 but today North American Toastmasters are still 80% male and average 47 in age. Toastmasters came to Mainland China in 1999 with flipped stats that favor women, 80% of the membership, 24 years old average and not an ugly one in the bunch. The explosive growth of Toastmasters in China reflects everyone’s burning desire to speak English and women do an 80/20 better job at second language acquisition than men.

Aristotle’s UTILITY is actualized in over 15,000 clubs in 130 plus countries because of its mutually supportive audience of like-minded individuals helping each other get better at communicating with one another. The PLEASURE of honest friendship blooms in successful meetings that foster a structured non-threatening environment for self-improvement. Everyone has a VIRTUOUS side but until it is revealed to others it is as silent as the fallen tree in the forest.

Getting to know one another after high school, or in college becomes ever more challenging in the world of work. Siren, an ENT doctor, manned-up to reveal his true self in Middle Kingdom Toastmasters by delivering the required ten speeches to the majority female audience. Gregarious Fisa made her presence felt from day one with her heartfelt speech performances. Over the course of a year and a half Siren and Fisa have realized the wisdom of Aristotle by forging their own virtuous character relationship. Toastmasters is for lovers.

East is East, West is West, Ever the Twain Shall Meet at Toastmasters

Sugar Speakers Parking Lot

Carol was a U-Per, the upper peninsula of Michigan. A super-duper bean counter after college she took a job with Duke Energy and transferred her to Houston in 2003. Carol’s husband, Jeff, encouraged her to join him at Sugar Speakers Toastmasters. Carol was the ‘Ah’ queen, but three sessions of receiving the max of 5 dings of the bellhop bell cured Carol of using unnecessary filler words in her speech.

Dino, was our ‘Valley Guy’, and Tex-Mex success story. Dino had a IT job with Exxon and also served as an officer in Exxon’s corporate Toastmasters club. Over half of the 7,000 clubs in North-America are sponsored by Fortune 500 companies. Dino joined Sugar Speakers as a dual club member in order to socialize outside the office politics work environment.

Mustafa, always complained about his fossilized Nigerian-British accent but it didn’t keep him from winning speech competitions. My favorite Mustafa story had him returning from boarding school in London to his home in Lagos. Wearing his three-piece suit, he got in a rogue taxi at the airport with the driver and two other passengers. The driver proceeded to take poor ole Mustafa out in the bush country where the threesome stripped him of his clothes, money and shoes. Welcome home to Lagos, the most notorious city in Africa.

Atina, represented the Houston India population that wanted to Americanize their inherited Indian-English accent. At Sugar Speakers we always seemed to have a fourth of the members from Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam and/or India. Their stories were similar – they didn’t get any respect for their talents because they couldn’t speak clearly. Vikas Jingran, a Houston ocean-engineering wizard became the 2007 World Champion of Public Speaking, the first non-native speaker to do so.

Vikas Jingran

Vikas Jhingran – The Swami’s Question

Mara, a Jewess from Des Moines, was our wordsmith. As a journalist she crafted competition winning speeches for herself and PR press releases for the rest of us. Twice Mara’s writing about our became feature articles in the Houston Chronicle.

Keith, a borderline Cajun from Lafayette, Louisiana, was a club founder and best speech evaluator. He was a gentleman and a scholar in his evaluations who left each of his evaluees knowing what they needed to do to improve.

Harry, our most linguistically challenged member, was an engineer from Dalian, Mainland China.  There was a Chinese Toastmasters club in Houston but Harry was determined to make a go of it in the mainstream. Harry and I visited the same Vietnamese psychic until the card reader was arrested for tax evasion. Harry became a real estate agent and six months later a broker. Even though I had sold new homes for four years, Harry still taught me everything I needed to know about residential estate.

Toastmasters is an association of like-minded individuals that gather together to improve their oral communications and leadership skills. Lifelong reciprocal friendships are formed among members of every creed, color and nationality.

TMC Xmas 2011 Dinner

After six years of Sugar Speakers Toastmasters in the ethnically diverse Houston I moved to Zhengzhou, Mainland China and immediately joined the Middle Kingdom Toastmasters club. If the West was ever to meet the East in Toastmasters Mainland China was the acid test. Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan had had Toastmasters since MacArthur went back home. There were around sixty clubs in 2008 and over four hundred when I left in February 2015. Together India and China account for over half of the new club growth in the 130 country Toastmasters world.

East is East, West is West, ever the twain meets in Toastmasters because it works. When like-minded people gather in their local community it works to their mutual benefit. Toastmasters has grown almost exponentially, in the last ten years due to Globalization and the adoption of English as the common language. The number one reason the Chinese join Toastmasters is to improve their English. The benefits of finding M/M Right, getting a better job, taking leadership roles, making lifelong friendships and discovering the power of civic associations are revealed step-by-step.