The happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of his passions.
-- Alfred Lord Tennyson
Our Division contest came and went just about last month. This isn't much, but I'm rather proud of how this speech went. There are some inaccuracies that some people might spot, but it's a rather good speech, I think. I'll come back next year with a better performance.
The Magic Feather
I hold in my hands a magic feather. Do you see it wave like this? I can even throw it in the air, I will spin, and then catch it. See?
Mr. Contest Chair, fellow Toastmasters, distinguished panel of judges and guests, good morning.
I picked up my magic feather habit from one of my favorite animated movies of all time, Walt Disney's Dumbo. (Well, I confess, I still love watching cartoons to this day.)
Now, Dumbo was an elephant, who happened not only to be undersized, but he also had a huge pair of ears. He was ridiculed by all his fellow circus elephants except his mother.
Little did they know that Dumbo could fly. However, he had a teensy-weensy problem: he didn't believe he can. He lacked the faith that he could do something which no other elephant could. To help Dumbo out his little friend Timothy Mouse gave him a feather, which had nothing special about it except this: it gave Dumbo the belief to fly.
All throughout the next few weeks, Dumbo trained with the feather. He started with small heights and later worked on going higher and higher.
Then came the big day when Dumbo was featured as the main attraction in the main ring of the circus. He was raised on the platform more than thirty feet from the ground. On his way up, he was brimming with confidence. Then something disastrous happened - he lost his feather! What was he to do?
He stared down, looking at the ground, looking at the audience, his knees shaking like a tree dropping leaves. His friend Tim spoke to him and told him he didn't need the magic feather. Along the way, something wonderful and magical happened. Dumbo started to believe. He started flapping one ear, and then the other. He took one step, and then another, and finally he fell off the platform!
At twenty feet from the ground he was flapping, and he was falling! Ten feet, he was flapping, and he was falling! At five feet his ears picked up the pace and he zoomed upward, to the delight of the crowd!
There's a little Dumbo in every one of us. We have the little fear inside us that only needs a little push, perhaps a magic feather to start us on the road to greatness.
What do you fear? --- What do you fear? ---- What do you fear? Our fears may be of failure, of ridicule, of loss, of death.
You and I all share one thing: that we fear the uncertainty of the future.
My magic feather moment came when I was selected to run for grade school president. I dreaded the experience because it exposed my one great fear: facing people in public. I stuttered and couldn't complete two straight sentences. I ate my words. We went class-to-class talking to the students, and I found it hateful. The last day of campaigning - the miting de avance - came, and all three of the parties had to speak before the entire school. My leading opponent was a natural-born speaker, while I quailed at the thought of doing my speech.
In those moments, what I remembered were my parents' encouragement and their assurance that they loved me. So I took a few steps forward, slowly ascended the podium, and delivered my speech.
It was horrible, and I lost by a huge margin, but the experience stayed with me that I worked harder on my public speaking skills. I became a trainer and a teacher.
All of us fear. Nelson Mandela once quoted poet Marianne Williamson, “our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. So we might ask ourselves, who are we to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? My question is, who are you not to be?”
Ladies and gentlemen, there is a light that shines within us that is yearning to break out. When we share this light with others, we give them permission to overcome their fear. We give them magic feathers of confidence to acknowledge the beauty in their lives.
When we liberate ourselves from our fear, we automatically liberate others.
I present you your own magic feather!
If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.
-- Donald H. Rumsfeld