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May 2024
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A Penchant for Public Service

By Paul Sterman

Geoff Regan, Canada’s Speaker of the House of Commons, isn’t the only Toastmaster to flourish in the world of politics. A long list of members or former members have made their mark in that arena, whether as lawmakers, speechwriters or diplomats.

Political leaders have included Pat Roberts, a long-serving U.S. senator from Kansas; Linda Lingle, who served two terms as the governor of Hawaii; and Paramasivum Pillay Vyapoory, CL, elected earlier this year as vice president of the Republic of Mauritius, an island nation in the Indian Ocean.

Others have served on city councils, including Dan Winterburn, DTM, a member of the Jacksonville (Oregon) City Council from 2010 to 2014, and Danny Nguyen, a member of the Missouri City (Texas) City Council from 2010 to 2014. Anaheim, California, has two former members on its City Council: Tom Tait, the mayor of the city, and Lucille Kring.

Two of Toastmasters’ Past International Presidents shined in the political field. John Lau, DTM, International President in 2012–2013, served as a Supreme Council member of the People’s Progressive Party of Malaysia, a component party of the Malaysian federal government.

Gary Schmidt, DTM, International President in 2009-2010, served as a top aide to two U.S. senators from his home state of Oregon, Mark Hatfield and Gordon Smith. His responsibilities included writing speeches and speaking at political events like town hall meetings. 

Toastmasters have also served as high-ranking diplomats. David Y.L. Lin was Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of China (Taiwan) from 2012 to 2016. Thabo Khasipe served as an ambassador for the Kingdom of Lesotho, a country in southern Africa.

In a 2010 speech to a club in Honolulu, then-governor Lingle said, “I encourage everyone who is even thinking about running for office to join Toastmasters. 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.”


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