The words Wuhan Jiayou!, meaning “Keep it up, Wuhan” or “Stay strong, Wuhan!” express the impassioned support a group of Toastmasters sent via video at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to colleagues in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei Province. The city of 11 million was the epicenter of the deadly coronavirus outbreak in late December 2019.
Members in Districts 85, 118, and District 25’s Afterburner Toastmasters club, recorded Blessings for Wuhan to support fellow Toastmasters in the city, especially members of Wuhan AACTP. The club held its first-ever online meeting February 7, just 15 days after the city was sealed off from the world to break the spread of the virus. As Ran Tao, president of Wuhan AACTP said, “We could not stop servicing our members, even in this special season. We are all together to face the difficulties.”
We are posting the video in its original format, informal and unedited. The messages offer blessings, best wishes, and of course, Jiayou! No translation needed—their faces and voices say it all.
Leadership Thoughts from Wuhan
China has now lifted the lockdown of Wuhan, spurred by the pandemic. Below, Toastmasters in District 85, which includes Wuhan (Division W), share perspectives on weathering the storm.
How are Division W clubs doing now?
Cloud Zhao, Division W Director: To be honest, Wuhan’s four community Toastmasters clubs have all recruited new members. We have all connected more closely; we are just like family.
Weiping Li, District 85 Club Growth Director: Our community clubs have been active in uniting club members, showing care for their situations, and letting people talk to each other while in self-isolation.
We felt Toastmasters clubs could be more than a place for the self-study of public speaking—that we would be a real community of people who support each other.
What is the biggest leadership lesson you’ve gained during the past few months?
Cloud: [The experience] helped us all understand the core value of service. When I provided all kinds of services, I thought, Members will follow me. I failed. After the past two months, I have instead served them with conversation and caring. They have responded: “Cloud, thank you for your service, I want to join your team and help you to do something.”
Weiping: The leader should stand still and take the responsibility for leading the group when there are challenges or even disasters like COVID-19. Be a hero first and then make more heroes.
For Toastmasters still in pandemic-affected countries—what would you say to them about engaging and maintaining their spirits?
Cloud: I want to say, “Dear fellow Toastmasters, I am living in Wuhan, in the center of the outbreak. Two months ago, I went through a terrible time. I heard that club members were affected; my friend’s parents died. So many died.
“My mentor told me to care for members, call them, leave messages—serve to everyone’s heart.”
Weiping: [I would say] Think about what leadership means. It’s not just leading someone else but also leading yourself out of a miserable situation. Lead yourself first and take the right actions. Always remember Toastmasters core values. Our members need us. Supporting them makes you a true leader. As Dr. Ralph C. Smedley said, “Leadership is the capacity to look ahead, think ahead, plan ahead, and then influence other people to go ahead on the plan.”
Sunny Liu and Clarence Leigh: We want to inspire Toastmasters around the world to take on these difficulties with optimistic spirit and perseverance. Although this epidemic undermines society and jeopardizes people’s lives, Toastmasters online meetings have transcended physical boundaries and united members and guests. We have seen a flowering of creative meetings and sharing over the past months.
Online meetings are expedient during this appalling virus outbreak—but they open new windows for members to unite and innovate. The online meetings may be temporary, but the leadership skills fostered at this time, the core values of Toastmasters, and the glory of humanity demonstrated are eternal.
Together we will get through this! Take care and be well!
Sunny Liu and Clarence Leigh Sunny Liu is a native of Wuhan, China, and member of the 1st Bilingual Zhangjiang Toastmasters in Shanghai, and Clarence Leigh is a dual member of Presidents Advanced Toastmasters and SHIP Toastmasters in Shenzhen.
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