Karen “K” Locke, ACS, CL
Early Words Club
A Poet Regains Her Voice
As a teenager in 1963, Karen “K” Locke found her poet’s voice, and she dedicated her life to writing and reciting poetry until a tragic day in 2003, when she was debilitated by a stroke. An advocate for racial equality through her poetry for many decades, she became silenced for the next six years. “It was as though the password to my mind had been lost—I had information stored but could not access it,” Locke says. “I could not speak, I could not write. I became a prisoner looking out through eyes that could see, I was locked inside a body that could barely move.”
One late afternoon in 2010, the phone rang. It was her ex-husband, Patrick. After 25 years of separation, the two came together again. Patrick was a Toastmaster, and he told Locke that joining a club might help her regain the ability to recite her poetry. She was scared, but hopeful.
At the first few meetings of the Early Words Club in Longview, Washington, Locke struggled with broken speech and filler words. But the club members waited patiently until she completed a word. When applause erupted, Locke found encouragement to keep going. She was scheduled to give her Ice Breaker just a few weeks later.
“I did not expect the Ice Breaker to come up so fast,” she says. “I didn’t feel ready, but everyone assured me I could do it. We recorded a video of the speech, which I later used to secure an invitation to recite my poetry at the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 2011.”
In 2015, Locke entered the International Speech Contest and earned second place at the division level. A few months later she attended the International Convention in Las Vegas, where she says she experienced an encounter unlike any other, connecting with members of various nationalities and all walks of life.
“We all have challenges in our lives,” she says. “We can choose whether or not to pick up the tools that are out there. Thanks to Toastmasters, I’m getting well, and I have my poet’s voice back!”
Allan Kaufman, DTM
Randallstown Network Toastmasters
Reflections on My Club’s 30-year Anniversary
The year was 1987 and I was teaching a series of public speaking workshops as part of my requirements to become a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM). I conducted the first one with my longtime friend and colleague Allan Misch, who was also in the process of becoming a DTM. We held it at the headquarters of the U.S. Social Security Administration in Washington, D.C., where we both worked for many years and attended a workplace Toastmasters club together.
I went on to conduct several sessions by myself, at Randallstown High School, as part of a Baltimore County (Maryland) adult education program. I remember that my father, Samuel Kaufman, attended some of my classes and would eventually become a DTM himself.
At the last workshop, many of my students decided they wanted to continue practicing public speaking, since they were having so much fun and learning a lot. So I said, “Let’s start a Toastmasters club in this area.”
We did indeed start a club, receiving our charter from Toastmasters International in January 1988. We found a place to meet close to the high school, at Church Lane Elementary School. I’ll always remember how we sat on the school’s little chairs.
Today the club still bears the same name—Randallstown Network Toastmasters—but its meeting place has moved nearby to a different suburb of Baltimore (Pikesville), and we now meet at Woodholme Elementary School (where we still sit on little chairs!).
I’ve seen club members come and go over the years, but we’ve always maintained a large, robust, vibrant roster of active members (which has included Craig Valentine, who went on to become the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking).
We may sit on little chairs, but we are achieving big things. It’s been a wonderful journey, and I look forward to the next 30 years!
Katrina Shawver, ACB, ALB
In Ahwatukee Toastmasters
How Toastmasters Helped Me Launch My Book
I joined Toastmasters four years ago with two clear purposes in mind. First, I knew I needed to improve my impromptu speaking. Second, I was finishing a book and knew I would need to promote it through speaking engagements. My book, HENRY: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America, is a nonfiction biography that was 15 years in the making. It was published in November 2017 to outstanding praise.
At my book launch, I faced a standing-room-only crowd of 85 people, including members of my In Ahwatukee Toastmasters club. As I was introduced, I knew that without my Toastmasters training I would not have had the confidence or skill that I did at that moment. I truly enjoyed giving the presentation and answering questions from the audience. Based on my talk, I was referred to seven other organizations and book clubs as a good speaker. As the presentation drew to a close, the applause was resounding, genuine and incredibly validating. Many people bought multiple copies for their holiday gift-giving.
As I reflected the next day, I realized the leadership roles for completing the Competent Leadership manual had contributed to building my confidence and speaking skills as much as all my prepared speeches had. Every role, from Ah-Counter to Evaluator, is regular practice for developing critical listening and speaking skills. Every speech evaluation is an impromptu three-minute speech. I look forward to our club meetings at 7 a.m. every Tuesday. There is a powerful energy in that room of goal-oriented, supportive friends; it carries me through the day.
I know Henry Zguda, the subject of my biography, is smiling down on me. Count me as a Toastmaster for life!
Chris Boron, ACG
Eastern Shore Toastmasters
Putting My Skills to Use
In the December Viewpoint article in the Toastmaster magazine, “Make an Impact With What You Learn,” Toastmasters’ International President Balraj Arunasalam, DTM, asked how we, as members, have put our Toastmasters skills to good use.
In early 2003, I commenced the Toastmasters communication and leadership program (and journey) to improve my communication and technical presentation skills for my employment role, which was regulating and facilitating offshore oil and gas exploration and development.
Then, in April 2005, tragedy struck when my 21-year-old son suddenly passed away. Parents are not supposed to outlive their children. Without the Toastmasters learning experience I would not have been able to—or capable of—effectively giving a grieving father’s eulogy.
The skills and confidence I achieved in the Toastmasters program allowed me to volunteer for work presentations and chair and lead groups and meetings. I also volunteer for various community focus groups and organizations and successfully lobby authorities on environmental, safety and social justice issues.
My communication and leadership initiatives resulted in me being selected to represent my department, state and country at several specialized national and international conferences and forums, and I was head-hunted for industry feedback, comments and recommendations.
None of this would have been possible without the skills, experience and knowledge that the Toastmasters program provides its members. Thank you, Ralph Smedley, for your life-changing vision, which empowers individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders.
Sarah Beasley, ACG, ALB
Words Worth Speaking
From Introvert to Extrovert
I have always been an introvert. I could talk to people if I had to, but I stayed away from those I did not know. I was shy and felt uncomfortable, worried that I would say something inappropriate. After thinking about it for almost seven years, I reluctantly joined Toastmasters in November 2015. I had no idea how much that would change me in less than two years.
I quickly went through several manuals and reached the point where I had to decide if I was going to continue my Toastmasters journey. I decided to take a huge leap and became an area director. I chaired speech contests and presented at club officer trainings. I built relationships with the club members in my area. I chartered a club in 28 days. To do all that, I had to force myself to be vulnerable. It was not easy at first, but it was worth it!
I am still an introvert, and need solitude to recharge, think and process, but I am now the first to volunteer to speak in group settings. My family and friends have noticed my personality change for the better. The shy, scared person I was before I joined Toastmasters is gone. I am miles from where I started but still not quite where I want to be.
This would not have been possible without the support from my clubs, my lifelong friends and mentors, and the opportunities I have been provided to challenge myself. My only regret? Waiting so long to join Toastmasters!
Do you have a Toastmasters success story you’d like to share about yourself or another member? Write it in 300 words or less and send it with a high-resolution photo.