Viewpoint: The Courage to Conquer!

Viewpoint: The Courage to Conquer!

A message from our International President


I know what it is to be so paralyzed by fear that you cannot breathe. Many years ago, Bob and I were flying to the 1985 Convention in a small plane. Along the way we were sucked into a horrific storm. We spent the next two hours being tossed about by high winds and pelted by rain. The storm was too strong for the small aircraft; we couldn’t get around it. The strength of the wind would not let us. We couldn’t get above it. In fact, two attempts to do so resulted in the plane stalling. We were at its mercy. Finally, we ran out of gas and crash landed, coming to a stop after wrapping a wing around the kitchen of a small rural home.

For years after that accident, I could not step onto a plane without strong medication. I was at the mercy of my fears. Then I thought about what we do in Toastmasters. As our vision statement so aptly states, we give people the courage to change! How so? Week after week we come together in our club meetings. We stand before each other and practice what we are uncomfortable doing. We may struggle at first, but our fellow members look at us and say, “You can do this! Try it this way.” So we practice some more. Little by little we let go of our notes. We step away from that lectern. Each time we do, we build more confidence. That confidence eventually transforms into courage. That courage allows us to conquer our fears.

That is why I have chosen as my theme this year “Toastmasters: The Courage to Conquer!” We all come to Toastmasters with something we want to conquer. It may not be on the scale of a plane crash, but the fears are just as real! We may have a fear of speaking to clients, of leading a meeting, of believing in ourselves.

Fellow Toastmasters, I am honored beyond words that you have placed your faith in me to lead this organization this year. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have just a little bit of fear! But as Peter McWilliams wrote:

“Come to the edge,” he said.
They said, “We are afraid.”
“Come to the edge,” he said.
They came.
He pushed them…
They flew.

My challenge to us all this year is to come to the edge of our fears. Allow our fellow members to push us. With that push we will fly, giving us The Courage to Conquer!

Jana Barnhill, DTM, Accredited Speaker
International President

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