Hawaii Governor Touts Toastmasters

Hawaii Governor Touts Toastmasters

Linda Lingle speaks at Open House
for new club in Honolulu. 

By Jason Garrett

Governor Linda Lingle is joined by members of the Hawaii Republican Party Toastmasters, including the author of this article, Jason Garrett, third from left.

If you scan the list of famous Toastmasters (a list you can find on the Toastmasters International Web site), you will see actors, former astronauts, CEOs and politicians. Among the latter group, you will see Linda Lingle, the governor of Hawaii.

She joined Toastmasters in the early 1980s, when serving as a member of the Maui County Council in Hawaii. She also helped start a Toastmasters club at the Maui County government when she was elected mayor of that county, which encompasses five islands. Governor Lingle has spoken often about the benefits of Toastmasters and credits the program for much of her success in politics.

The two-term Republican governor has encouraged local political candidates and party leaders to polish their speaking skills by joining a Toastmasters club. To answer her call, the Hawaii Republican Party (HRP) officially chartered the HRP Toastmasters in January 2010. As the Honolulu-based club became firmly established over the next six months, its members invited Governor Lingle to speak at the club’s first Open House – and were thrilled when she accepted their invitation.

More than 50 guests attended the August 26th meeting in downtown Honolulu. The audience included Toastmasters leaders in Hawaii such as District 49 Governor Anne Myers, Toastmasters from local clubs, and Republican Party leaders and candidates in Hawaii.

Unabashed Toastmasters Supporter
Governor Lingle greeted the audience with a warm “Aloha! It’s not a secret that when it comes to Toastmasters, I am an unabashed supporter and participant.” Because everyday aspects of life require effective communication, Toastmasters “is the best investment that you can ever make,” she said.

The governor went on to outline the top three benefits she gained from the organization – benefits that not only helped her ascend to the highest political offices in Hawaii but that anyone can acquire as a Toastmaster.

Benefit #1: Gaining Confidence in Your Skills
Confidence comes from practicing, and ultimately mastering, the speaking skills learned in Toastmasters, the governor said, stressing that these skills can be used in any setting, whether you “communicate with a small group, a large group or at the Republican National Convention.” Two skills, in particular, are critical to master.

The first skill is to always consider your audience when giving a speech. “The speech is not about you, it is about them,” the governor said, noting that she has learned to adjust her speeches to accommodate her audiences. “I make adjustments because some people like to hear a fiery kind of speech, but some people are too overwhelmed by that – they would like something a little calmer. You’re not changing your message, but how you deliver it can change from group to group. It’s a respect for your audience that I think is so important.”

The other skill is to know when to stop talking. Speakers often have difficulty wrapping up their speeches; Governor Lingle said they need to work out their conclusions long before they take the stage. This doesn’t mean that the ending can’t be altered or adjusted for a particular situation. A speaker needs to be “a little bit flexible, but [he or she] still needs to know how to wrap up,” Governor Lingle said. 

Benefit #2: Interaction with Club Members
Toastmasters clubs offer a supportive environment for growth, and all members are trying to improve themselves and help each other in the process, the governor said. Giving speeches and being evaluated in this kind of environment helps you improve: “You don’t have to worry that people are going to laugh at you if you make a mistake. Instead, they’re going to help you to recognize how you can be better.”

Such positive and constructive feedback is invaluable. As Governor Lingle pointed out, interacting with fellow club members is a great learning experience.

Benefit #3: Learning to Think Clearly
In order to move or inspire an audience, speakers must prepare their presentations in advance; otherwise they might find themselves stringing together comments that don’t make sense. Toastmasters teaches people the right way to do this, said the governor – to think in a clear and logical manner so they can properly convey what they mean to their audiences. “You can’t get up in front of your fellow Toastmasters if you haven’t thought about your speech in advance,” she noted.

Concluding her speech, Governor Lingle reiterated just how important Toastmasters has been to her. “I have a deep and abiding love for this organization and I encourage everyone who is even thinking about running for office to join Toastmasters,” she said. “It will give you a level of confidence that you wouldn’t already have; it will give you a built-in support base among your fellow Toastmasters, and it will enable you to stand up and be effective in front of any audience and communicate ideas that are worthwhile.”

Editor’s Note: Governor Linda Lingle, whose second term ends this month, was ineligible to run in Hawaii’s 2010 gubernatorial election because of term limits. 

Jason Garrett is a member of the HRP Toastmasters club in Honolulu, Hawaii, and a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy. Reach Jason at jmgarretts.mailbox@gmail.com.

Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle
Inspires New Toastmasters Club

By Jason Garrett

At the first Open House hosted by the Hawaii Republican Party Toastmasters, club member Jonah Kaauwai – chairman of the Hawaii Republican Party – spoke about what inspired the creation of the club.

“I had heard a story that Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle had mastered the art of communication from something called Toastmasters. She had told [those in Hawaii government] that in order to be master communicators and leaders in the state of Hawaii, they needed to be Toastmasters,” he said.

So last year Kaauwai followed her advice and joined the First Hawaiian Center Toastmasters in Honolulu. “I was introduced into an incredible world where people were encouraging, people were nurturing and people wanted me to be better than I was when I came in,” he said.

Because of that experience, he wanted other party members and political candidates to reap the same benefits and helped found the Hawaii Republican Party (HRP) Toastmasters, which chartered this past January with 22 members. Kaauwai was the club’s first president.

At the Open House, the HRP Toastmasters presented Governor Lingle with a certificate acknowledging her as the inspiration for its club. She was also invited into the club as an honorary member.

Editor’s Note: Toastmasters International does not support any political party or philosophy. However, political parties or government agencies are free to form clubs for the benefit of their employees or members.