“What this country needs is more free speech worth listening to.” 

~ Hansell B. Duckett

TheChanceToChoose_011I never set out to be a speaker.

It must be a gift sent from a very generous and humorous God because off stage I’m not much of a talker and I don’t always form sentences clearly. I can talk all day with a favorite friend, and oddly enough, on the stage (more people the better). But put me in a room with ten people talking drivel and I’m not eloquent whatsoever. I’m bored.

***

“Let thy speech be better than silence, or be silent.” 

~Dionysius Of Halicarnassus  

The first time I officially spoke “publically” was 1989 as a senior in college–Public Speaking 101, second floor, Leonard Hall at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I don’t remember doing many things memorable on that campus (academically), but speech class I nailed.

I’ll never forget the day we delivered our motivational speeches. A shaved ROTC kid went before me practically spitting disgust toward people who polluted their body with drugs and how he wanted to motivate the class never to touch the stuff. His blow horn communicated no mercy, and zero tolerance.

I followed. The girl with a long history. Soiled. One this boy would shirk in disgust if we’d crossed paths in The Grove outside our university’s brick building. He would have no time for the likes of me.

But I was different this day. It was a new year and I’d returned from a life changing trip on the west coast where I had met The Teacher (my husband of over 20 years) and we’d hiked the snow capped mountains of Hurricane Ridge. I told the whole class about how my life had been transformed by newness, fresh air, and hope. I told the kids that I was someone who could understand them, but that drugs were not the answer.

I talked with them not at them. Even though I stood behind a solid oak podium I tried to join their confused heart with mine.

The moment became an open air confessional and you could hear a pin drop. Deadbeat, hardened college students and the scholarly alike wiped their eyes.

Even military boy.

That was the day I fell in love with Public Speaking, even though it would be ten years later, in an obscure, coffee and muffin filled sanctuary where I’d speak publicly again.

I speak because I have to. I speak because I wouldn’t be myself without the opportunity to help another know they are understood.

 They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” 

~ Carl W. Buechner

***