A couple of months ago, my wife and I joined a Toastmasters club here in our city. We are so glad we made this decision. We’ve had tons of fun since then. We see each Toastmasters club meeting as a kind of binge-drinking session. But it’s a good kind of binge-drinking. We’re not drinking alcohol, of course. Rather, with each meeting, we “drink up” not merely each other’s speeches, but also each other’s ideas, insights, and life stories. It has been very stimulating and enriching, both intellectually and emotionally. It’s a supremely pleasurable and enjoyable way to became a better speaker and leader.
Below is my first-ever prepared speech. It has also been published recently in the Toastmasters International-Philippines section of a local newspaper:
A Ring, A Book, and A Lady
Mr. Toastmaster, friends, and guests, good evening!
I believe that there’s a lot we can learn about a person by looking at the things he or she loves. Here are 3 things that I love. These 3 objects speak volumes about my identity, interests, and ambitions.
First, this ring.
When I was in high school, I was a little bit weird. Something happened to me. But that is a subject for another speech. Suffice it to say that I was strange. I was rebellious, a loner, and an anti-social. Then I went on to college and became weirder and more lost. I took up psychology but it immediately became apparent to my classmates that I was more of a psycho than a psych student. Somehow after a few years I was able to finish my degree. I found work in a BPO company and during the first day of our orientation, I met this girl. This girl cured me of my weirdness. She was my first ever girlfriend and also my last. We got married and that was the greatest achievement of my life.
I’m married to that beautiful lady over there and we have two kids, a boy and a girl, both toddlers. We are into the trucking business. Our son, Luke Thomas, just started Nursery school in PAREF Southdale. His sister, Darci Elizabeth, stays at home with us.
As any couple will tell you, married life is not easy. Sometimes my wife wants to shower me with kisses; at other times, she wants to strangle me with her bare hands. I am far from perfect and my wife is well acquainted with my faults and weaknesses.
But being a husband and a father, these two roles have given my life meaning. Of course, we encounter struggles every day, but I didn’t really know what real joy was like until Bel, Luke, and Lizzy entered my life.
Second, this book.
My dream is to someday have this kind of conversation with my kids over the breakfast table:
“Good morning, Luke. How’s school?”
“Oh, great, Daddy.”
“What are you reading these days?”
“Oh, you know, just some history of Western philosophy stuff. You know, the pre-Socratics and the Greek philosophers: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. I’m also reading about universals and a bunch of other stuff.”
“Universals. You know, abstract objects like propositions, numbers, and other mathematical entities.”
“Aristotle’s metaphysics are actually pretty interesting. Then I’m also reading about the medieval philosophers. I’m fascinated by St. Thomas Aquinas’ arguments for the existence of God. I think they are still sound and valid today. I’m currently reading about the modern philosophers. Boy, those guys really messed everything up. I think they are responsible for the scientistic, naturalistic, and relativistic worldview prevalent in today’s secular societies. Can you please pass the orange juice, Daddy?”
Or this kind of dialogue with my daughter:
“Daddy, can we talk?”
“There’s this boy in school…”
“Whoa, wait. Boys. We’ve talked about this before. Remember our rule: no boys until after college.”
“I know, Daddy. But this boy is so cute. He is kind, well-mannered, and he has many good qualities to recommend him. But the thing is, he doesn’t know what logical fallacies are, and he can’t tell the difference between deductive and inductive arguments. To make matters worse, he hasn’t read Shakespeare or Dante or even Homer!”
I would then reply, “How shocking!”
In other words, I want the study of philosophy, literature, and the arts to be an essential part of our lives. I want reading to become as natural an activity for us as breathing.
This book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren is called How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. And it teaches you just that – how to become an intelligent reader. That is what I want for myself and for my family: to cultivate a life of the mind or to develop a healthy intellectual life. I want us to be well-read in philosophy, science, and the humanities, or in logic, critical thinking, and literature.
My wife is familiar with this book because I used to wake her up in the middle of the night and say something like:
“Ga, please wake up.”
“What’s the matter?”
“Aristotle just spoke to me!”
“Aristotle. You know, the philosopher.”
“But he’s dead. He’s been dead for centuries.”
“Actually, he’s alive. We can “hear” him speak in the books he has written. Mortimer Adler said that books are absent teachers. Isn’t that amazing?”
My wife would just roll her eyes and go back to sleep.
Third, this lady.
I have a confession to make. I love Jane Austen. Before my wife will hurl that cup of coffee at me, let me qualify my statement. What I mean is, I love her works. I have read all 6 of her novels and I have seen almost all of their TV and movie adaptations. I have read some of her letters and her shorter stories.
I have a quota for the number of times I am allowed to praise Jane Austen in a day: and that is, not more than once. I believe I have already exceeded the limit tonight and as you can see my wife’s eyes are starting to narrow. I remember one time when I went beyond that limit. I was tired and I had a headache:
“Ga, I’m tired. My head hurts. Can you please massage my nape and forehead?”
And she said, “Why don’t you ask Jane Austen?”
What I love most about Austen is the beauty of her language and the elegance of her sentences. She is also very witty and funny. But more importantly, her novels are like mirrors: they can reflect back to you the content of your character. Sometimes, I can see myself in some of her villains. At other times, I can also see the person I want to be in her heroines and heroes. And that is one of the central themes of all her works, I think: character or the importance of having a good character. Without a good character, you won’t be able to find true love. Without a great character you won’t be able to have a happy marriage.
And that is what I want most. That is my dream: to possess a good character, so that I may become a great husband, father, and friend.
Jane Austen also inspires me in another way. I am a writer, but not yet a good one. I write short stories and sometimes, I also write poems. My stories have been rejected many times; but some of them have been published, and I celebrate those little victories. I love words and I am aware that they possess power. They can be used to touch and move people. Jane Austen is my ultimate model. Her works are the standard against which I measure my own craft.
A ring, a book, and a lady. These 3 things define who I am, what my passions are, and who I hope to be.