To my wife, Julia, for her example of fierce caring for her family, her students, and the under-privileged; To our children and grandchildren, for continually teaching me and reminding me of what is really important in life; To Jim Hayhurst Sr., for reminding me what was important at a critical juncture in my journey when I might have been tempted in another direction; To Ralph Smedley, for his gift of Toastmasters to the world; To Ross Mackay, for his lifelong service to Toastmasters; To Harold Patterson, for wrapping up his gifts and giving them away; To all my friends in Toastmasters who have shared this path with me since 1969; To my Mum and Dad, who loved me and persuaded me that I was important; To the United Church of Canada, which has inspired me to look for the sacred in everyone and everything; and To Donald Robertson, author of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, for introducing me to Marcus Aurelius and Stoicism. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor from 161 to 180 AD. However, Marcus was more concerned with his Stoic philosophy than with his role as emperor. He set down his philosophy in a series of reflections to himself, which have come down to us as his “Meditations.” This book was inspired by Marcus. It is my “meditations.”
As a member of Toastmasters International for almost as long as the author, and as one who has undoubtedly delivered at least as many speeches, I now find myself feeling guilty of not collecting mine to the same extent. Although I have written a few books, each of them has focused on a single topic, so, consequently, the collection doesn’t reveal much about me as an individual. In reading the collection of Toastmaster speeches that comprise the contents of his book, I was delighted to learn more about Rob Peck, a fellow Toastmaster whom I have admired for many years.
What I now know about him, that I didn’t know before, is that this is a deeply spiritual being who has arrived at his beliefs by questioning and examining them in some depth and not simply by blindly accepting religious dogma as undisputed fact—the way so many others have done. I admire that greatly. I also know that he adores his wife and family, he reveres and respects his fellow church members and Toastmasters’ club members, and he loves and honours his friends, most of whom are included in the other groups.
In this intriguing book, Toastmasters particularly will appreciate the various topics of these speeches, which range from biblical commentaries to family events and a variety of other matters. This book is an example to all Toastmasters that your entire life is a speech topic just waiting to be considered and presented. I particularly related to his belief that every speech will benefit from being treated as an Ice Breaker, where one is required to introduce oneself to the members of their club. This very practical concept will help so many who struggle with how to approach the matter of writing a Toastmasters speech.
Many others will be able to take some valuable lessons from the philosophies expounded here when they too face some of the life struggles that Rob has shared with us.
I have also discovered that Rob has a great admiration for Maya Angelou, the American poet, author, and civil rights activist. His favourite quotation from her is: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
It occurs to me that when an idea such as this is so close to your heart, it has become very much a part of who you are. Rob quotes that passage frequently. I’m also told that one of the main reasons Rob is publishing this book is so that his children will get to know him better than they already might. There is no doubt that will happen. If my own experience is anything to go by, I would suggest that more than a few of his many friends are likely to benefit in exactly the same way. This is a fascinating book for many different reasons, and I commend it to you wholeheartedly. Ross C. Mackay, DTM, AS, PID *** Ross Mackay is a professional speaker, entertainer, and author who has informed and inspired audiences in thirty-four countries around the world. He was a founding member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers and served four years on their Board of Directors. He has also been a member of Toastmasters International for almost thirty years, during which he served as District 60 Governor and on the International Board of Directors. In 2020 he was presented a Presidential Citation for outstanding and continued contributions to Toastmasters. In addition to writing his memoirs, Ross now enjoys entertaining senior continued contributions to Toastmasters. In addition to writing his memoirs, Ross now enjoys entertaining senior citizen groups with his life-long love of music.
I was born to parents who travelled extensively for business and pleasure. My development was influenced by them, by our frequent moves, and by the churches we attended. When I grew up, I studied engineering and business administration.
Between my studies, I discovered Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Off and on for over forty years since that first exposure, I have been a member of several different Toastmasters clubs. Every few months that I have been a member, I have presented a speech on subjects I found of interest. Typically, those speeches were about five to seven minutes long, which works out to approximately one thousand words. The first formal prepared speech performed by a new Toastmaster is termed the “Ice Breaker.” To make the new Toastmaster as comfortable as possible in this nerve-wracking experience, the Ice Breaker’s subject is usually the person themselves. The thinking is that if you really know your subject, you will be more relaxed, and since the subject we all know best is ourselves, we should tell stories about ourselves.
It works. Ice Breakers are often fascinating speeches. Subsequent speeches in the Toastmasters’ program emphasize different skillsets in speaking: organization, gestures, vocal variety, and the like. Often in doing these speeches, Toastmasters choose subjects about which they know little; they research a topic and give a speech laden with facts. The end result is a wooden, unenthusiastic presentation.
Over the years, I noticed that, frequently, Toastmasters get to their seventh or eighth formal speech before they again give a speech as good as their Ice Breaker. Why? Because they finally get back to choosing topics they care about and with which they have personal experience.
Then it hit me. Since the best speeches are Ice Breakers, we should strive to make every speech an Ice Breaker. After that, I started to make every speech I did an Ice Breaker. That is, every time I wrote a speech, I looked for how I could illustrate it with personal stories from my own life.
Harold Patterson, the 1987 World Champion of Public Speaking, talked about this in a superb article, “Wrap Up Your Package and Give It Away,” in the September, 1988, Toastmaster Magazine. The following passages are excerpted from Harold’s article:
To give a speech is to share a part of ourselves. Packaging knowledge with our own personal experience is like wrapping a gift: to share this package, to make a speech about this information, is to give the gift away. Past International Director Dick Schneider, DTM, encouraged me to personalize my speeches. This was probably one of the best suggestions I’ve ever received. I quit focusing solely on winning contests and started trying to share a little of myself. Trophy or not, win or lose, I always came up a winner because I had given a part of myself and done my very best. Ultimately, you must create the speech with which you feel most comfortable. When all is said and done, you must be able to say, “This is my speech. I believe in it, and I’m proud of it.” If you can say this, you are a winner.
I regularly reread Harold’s article for inspiration and to recharge my batteries.
I have often used speech preparation as a way of working out my problems. If I have a problem, I write a speech about it. Many times, I find that by the time I have finished the speech, I have developed an approach to the problem.
I prepared most of my speeches for Toastmasters’ exercises, but some as reflections for church services when I covered for the minister who was absent on vacation or study leave. Others were for other community events such as eulogies.
Initially, my speeches were in hard copy and I did not save them. However, since 1997, I have kept soft copies of most of my favourite speeches. That works out to over forty speeches, covering a period from 1997 to the present. These speeches are a record of my reflections over the past twenty-five years on the influences on my life, and on my personal philosophy, of my family, church, Toastmasters, friends, and world events. Looking back over them, I can see where I have come from. That helps me determine where I still have to go. And whether I should change course!
I believe in them. I am proud of them. They are from the heart. In recent years, I have thought about publishing them as a book. The main idea is not to make money but to have a record, for my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, Toastmaster friends, and others, of who I was and what my interests were/are. If others could be helped by my recorded experiences, the things I tried that worked, and the things I tried that did not, so much the better!
This is that book. I am wrapping up my life in speeches and giving it away to whomever can use it! The speeches are arranged chronologically in the order in which I wrote them. While they have been tweaked in a few cases, they are essentially as originally written and presented. This has the advantage of showing how my speeches and personal philosophy have evolved over time.
One final point. You will notice that sometimes I have reused anecdotes in different speeches. There are good reasons for that. First, if a story is good, I feel it should not be thrown out after only one use, especially if it can be used again with a different audience! Second, a story might be used to good effect at different times in different ways to illustrate different points. Third, these speeches were often delivered at important times in my life; they accurately reflect my views at those times, and I do not want to rewrite history. Fourth, and most important, some points are important enough that they bear repeating! So, forgive me, I left the repetitions in!
Rob Peck Toronto, Canada October 2021
In February 1997, our children were twenty-two, twenty, eighteen, and seventeen years of age. I decided to share my wisdom gleaned from my previous ten years of dealing with teenagers.
Ladies and gentlemen, with apologies to the Music Man: We’ve got a problem Right here in Toronto And that starts with P and it rhymes with T And that stands for … Teenagers. How many people here have grown children or teenagers?
You can relax now. My speech is not for you. You already know everything I am about to say, so you can do something else for the next six minutes. Draw pretty pictures. Play cards or just go, “Blrrrrrrrrrrrrrb!” We’ll understand!
How many people here have pre-teens?
God bless you! It is all about to happen. There is nothing that can be done for you. You are on the roller coaster. It is leaving the station; you can’t get off. You will die! If you are masochist, stick around to hear what will befall you. If not, you are also excused. Go play with the first group—if you hear my talk, you will just get depressed.
How many of you have no children?
All right! On with the speech. This is for you! Especially the ladies! Listen, learn, and live!
What are teenagers?
The teenage years typically last about ten years, starting at age twelve and continuing until the subject is between twenty and twenty-five years of age. They are defined in terms of hormonal imbalance and actually bear no direct relationship to chronological age. Indeed, I am aware of one recorded case where the teenager is thirty-five years old, married, with two children of her own.
Why are they a problem?
It’s all explained by the eighty-twenty rule. Twenty per cent of the people in this world cause eighty per cent of the mess. We call these people teenagers.
Most of them have parents. Recent studies have proven that, in a typical family with teenagers, twenty per cent of the people do eighty per cent of the work. These people are called mothers.
We call the people who do the remaining twenty per cent of the work fathers.
The teenagers do zilch! Nada! Rien! Comprenez? You capeesh? Teenagers feel that life is sooooo painful, they are justified in eating, sleeping, creating garbage, messing up their room, watching TV, and sighing about how hard done by they are! That is their raison d’être.
Why is this? Why does God do this to Her creatures? After all, She’s a mother too, isn’t she?
I talked to God about this, and She told me there were two reasons: 1.It’s her punishment for us having too much sex! 2.It’s her punishment for our having been teenagers in the past!
How can this wrong be corrected?
There are only three cures: 1.Suicide. The first option considered by most parents. This option is not recommended. It has a certain finality to it and arguably gives the teenager the sense that they have won. I hate that! 2.Murder. While a viable option, it carries a certain social stigma, as well as a period of incarceration that could last in excess of one or more golf seasons. Also not recommended. 3.Time. The preferred option. You have to wait it out. With any luck, they will grow up and have teenagers too. Then you get the last laugh.
So, to recap, we have a problem in Toronto. It’s called teenagers. They are a proble m because they make work for the rest of us.
There are three possible solutions to this problem: 1.Suicide is ruled out because it’s giving in. 2.Murder is ruled out because it cramps our style. 3.Time … the passage of time … is the only viable course.
What should we do while we wait for time to work its healing wonders?
Prevention is the best course of action. If you don’t have children, get sterilized or abstain from sex altogether. Monasteries and convents are good. So is hiking in Antarctica.
However, if you do have children, I recommend prayer. Monasteries and convents are good choices here as well. Failing those, church. This is likely the reason for the recent surge in church attendance as the children of Baby Boomers hit the teenage years.
Finally, remember what my dad always says: If I had known grandchildren were so much fun, I would have had them first! Mr. Toastmaster.