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June 2024
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A Look Back at the Golden Gavel Award

An array of illustrious figures have received the honor over the years.

By Staff


Gold Toastmasters logo with gavel

For 65 years, Toastmasters International has presented a prestigious award to individuals distinguished in the fields of communication and leadership. The Golden Gavel is unlike any other honor given in the Toastmasters realm—the recipients, who aren’t required to be members of Toastmasters, include authors, broadcasters, philanthropists, actors, leadership experts, and more. The winner is recognized at the annual International Convention during a special Golden Gavel presentation, where they receive a trophy (in the early days it was an actual gold gavel) and give an acceptance speech.

The first Golden Gavel was given in 1959 to Dr. Frank C. Baxter, a professor of English at the University of Southern California, who was nationally known for his many television appearances. You may recognize some other famous names and faces of past recipients—even Toastmasters founder Dr. Ralph C. Smedley was awarded the Golden Gavel, in 1963.

Below are some memorable winners throughout the years.



Black and white image of actress Greer Garson accepting Golden Gavel award from man onstage

Greer Garson (left) was an Academy Award-winning actress who also starred onstage and in television. She was presented the 1968 award by then-International President Lothar Salin. Garson received the honor five years before women were admitted as members of Toastmasters.




Black and white photo of television newsman Walter Cronkite

Walter Cronkite, the legendary U.S. television newsman, was tapped for the award in 1969. In his speech, Cronkite urged all people to demand that news be presented thoroughly and accurately.




Grace Hopper receiving Golden Gavel award in case from man onstage

Grace Hopper was a United States Navy Rear Admiral (USNR Ret.) and computer software pioneer. She received the 1988 award from 1987–1988 International President John A. Fauvel, DTM.




Les Brown shaking hands with man while receiving golden gavel in a case

Les Brown (left) was recognized with the 1994 Golden Gavel for his skill and impact as a motivational speaker, state legislator, television talk show host, and author. Then-International President Neil Wilkinson, DTM, presented the award.




Deepak Chopra accepting Golden Gavel award from man onstage

Dr. Deepak Chopra, the famed health and wellness expert, was presented the Golden Gavel award by 1997–1998 International President Robert Barnhill, DTM.




Zig Ziglar smiling in suit and tie

Zig Ziglar, a prolific motivational speaker and author of numerous best-selling books on personal and professional growth, was the 1999 recipient. His formula for achieving success was simple: “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want.”




Debbi Fields Rose speaking onstage at 2003 Toastmasters convention

Debbi Fields Rose, founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies, was the recipient in 2003. In response to receiving the award, Fields said, “When I look at the people who won before me—really amazing people—I think, 'Wow! What an honor!’”




Stephen Covey accepting Golden Gavel award from man onstage

Stephen Covey (left) received the 2004 award from then-International President Ted Corcoran, DTM. Covey, an author, businessman, and speaker, is most well-known for his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.




Susan Cain holding up Golden Gavel trophy with international flags in background

Susan Cain, author of Quiet, a highly popular 2012 book about the power of introverts, was honored as the 2013 recipient. The onetime Toastmaster talked in her acceptance speech about how introverts can use their innate strengths to become great leaders.


In honor of Toastmasters International’s 100th anniversary, this is the fifth in a year-long series of articles commemorating historic milestones.



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