Onward and Upward

Yesterday, I delivered my second speech for Toastmasters. I had fun preparing and doing the research, practiced it a few times in front of my daughter, prepared note cards, the whole works. I still left it too late, seeing as I changed the topic of my speech yesterday morning about 4 hours before I was to deliver my speech. I trashed the original notes (actually I saved them in case I find them more inspiring at a later date…), grabbed my topic, hit Google to do some research and started typing. An hour later I had a pretty good speech. An hour after that I had a really good speech. Two hours later, I delivered said speech. I really do seem to work well under a tight deadline, but I am wondering how well I could perform if I didn’t create these tight deadlines for myself? I had known about my speech for at least 3 weeks, but it came down to the last 4 hours… I carried it off, got several compliments and was kindly reviewed by my evaluator, scoring 5 out of a possible 5 on all metrics….. BUT (there’s always a but, or as we prefer @ J Crew: “however”) so, HOWEVER – if I had begun preparation earlier – not relied on notes, felt more confident in my material, would that have been a fantastic speech? I’ll never know about that one, however (see, it really does sound better than “but”, doesn’t it?) I plan on finding out with my next one. I’ll let you know how it goes. I recently purchased a book (for those of you who know me, this should come as no big surprise…) from the One Minute Manager series – I hate to admit that I don’t remember the title, but it was the subtitle which grabbed my attention: it said “Last Minute…” I was hooked. I’ll let you know how it is when I finish with it (I’m currently just finishing “The Secret” – if you haven’t read it, do. If you are Christian and find new agey references to the Universal Mind or the Creative Spirit offensive, just substitute God where the pc phrases are used – the book has a tremendous amount of interesting information. If you like Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer, you’ll like The Secret. I’ve put my speech below. Enjoy and live your passion!

John Campbell has a lot to answer for. For those of you not familiar with the name (as I was not until I began researching this speech), John Campbell was the editor of the Boston News Letter, the first continuously published newspaper in America. First published on April 24 1704, this paper opened the door for what has become one of the most powerful forces shaping our lives today: the media.

The power of the press was recognized as early as the late 1700’s when Edmund Burke first referred to journalists as “the fourth estate”. That term is derived from the “3 estates” of France. Louis the 16th had convened a meeting @ Versailles in 1789 of the 3 estates: 300 clergy, 300 noblemen and 300 commoners. Shortly thereafter, Burke sat in the House of Commons in Parliament and, looking at the press gallery, stated: “Yonder sits the 4th estate and they are more important than them all.” Little did he know.

“Go west young man and grow with the country” (which has been wrongly attributed to Horace Greeley) was the title of an editorial written by John BL Soule which appeared in 1851 in the Terre Haute Express. This expression crystallized the westward movement and Greeley made free use of it in later years. It can be seen as a defining moment in the people being moved (literally) by what appeared in the press.

In our more recent history, many Americans became weary of the Vietnam war when treated to daily doses of footage from the front. Never before had the general public had a front row seat to a war. It was no longer a heroic archetype to be a soldier. It was suddenly brutal and horrifying and death was served with dinner every evening @ 6.

Fast forward to July 29, 1981. Princess Diana captures the hearts of the world in her fairy tale marriage to Prince Charles. The shy kindergarten teacher became the peoples princess. Cinderella come to life. Although the wedding may have been a fairy tale, the marriage was more like the grimms brothers and again, the world had a front row seat. Accusations, tears, desperation and divorce. Finally, in a Paris tunnel on August 31st, 1997: death. A death whose blame has been laid at the feet of the paparazzi, weaving in and out of traffic in pursuit of the perfect picture of Diana and her companion Dodi Fayed.

Now, here we are in 2008. Guess what folks, it an election year!! Anybody notice? You think anyone in New Hampshire or Iowa noticed? How could you not, when, even in this year of large viable fields of candidates from both major parties, the journalists out number the candidates thousands to one. And who exactly is electing the next president? Some of us will say it is we, exercising our right as granted by the Constitution. Others will insist that it really is the Electoral College, but I submit to you that it is in fact the members of the press. Each handshake is played and replayed – whole speeches are condensed and distilled by the press and regurgitated to us in the form of soundbites.
We have to work very hard to look past who the press is telling has the “MO”, or how no Republican who has lost both Iowa and New Hampshire has gone on to win the Party nomination. Mind you, in the next breath, you will hear that the buzz word is change, so maybe Mitt and Fred can take some comfort from that.

And since we’re in a New Year and everyone has resolutions – How’s your health? Well, if you pick up a national magazine or switch on the tv (perhaps to catch up on some of those election soundbites..) you may suddenly fell like it’s not as good as you thought. Maybe your heartburn isn’t from the double pepperoni pizza you had last night, maybe it’s ACID REFLUX! Ever get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night? We have a pill for that! Honestly, if I never have to see another add for a mucous medicine again, it will be too soon. And who decides that they will run them during dinner?? Well, maybe the same media people who portray the ideal woman as 5’10”, blond, size 6, with seemingly more teeth than God ever intended. This perfect woman comforts her fevered child (with the latest medicine), happily waits with her husband for the Cialis to kick in, and keeps her house from every odor known to man. And has a healthy digestive system and no wrinkles while managing all the rest – with that incredibly white smile. The invasion of the media into our lives has become so pervasive and so insidious that we’re pretty unaware of the vast impact it has on nearly every waking moment. It’s time for us to wake up and smell the coffee.

We need to become more aware of the messages which are being fed to us, our families, our co-workers. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not condoning censorship or condemning freedom of the press – I’m promoting responsible consumerism of the media. Don’t believe everything you hear or see or read. Applaud companies like Dove, who go against the grain of skinny perfect models and show pictures of nude mature women portrayed as beautiful spokes persons for their products. Try to hear both sides of a message. Stop and ask yourself – why am I seeing this on television? Who is gaining from this being sent through media channels? What is the source? (Especially important for internet info). With BBC news website being updated every minute (really) and cnn, fox news and other channels being available 24/7, it really is up to us to go past the superficial. The media can be an extremely positive influence on our lives, a wealth of information which can be used to foster understanding and peace and knowledge. It can also be used as a very powerful way to gain control of us – the general public, and it’s our duty to make sure that John Campbell’s original dream doesn’t become the American nightmare.