On a mission to Mars

What is a Toastmasters Club doing on a mission to Mars? Could it be in search of the Mars Bar in order to toast? Actually Transformers Toastmasters held a debating special on Monday, 24th May to determine which of two teams had the best credentials for such a mission.

Our meeting saw a good turnout of members and a wonderful number of guests. (It is interesting when we concentrate on growing our club the guests flock in.) We had two return guests, Nontu Made and Leratho Molefe. They were accompanied by a first time guest, Nkgadi Mogotlane who brought a friend from the Eastern Cape who had been exposed to Toastmasters in a transition year after high school. Three guests from Price Waterhouse Coopers came to investigate whether Toastmasters was the place to improve their public speaking skills: Guy Steele, Jonathan Godden and Mike Krzychylkiewicz.

The entire evening was somewhat different to normal meetings. As Glenice Ebedes said when she proposed the toast of the evening: we usually toast an idea, an ideal, a concept or an absent personage; but we had the opportunity to toast someone famous, within our circle, and present. Ryan Ebedes joined Toastmasters in February 2006 and gave his first speech, the ice breaker where one speaks about oneself, about birds. Outgoing, friendly and forthcoming as Ryan is, he seldom speaks about himself, but his passion, birds, has taken him to being judged the best speaker of a prepared speech in District 74 (southern Africa). The preparation for this speech reflects a quote from one of his mentors, Gary Player, who said that the “more you practice the luckier you get”. Ryan drew on the depth of experience in Transformers to hone his speech at every step from presenting it at our club to winning the best speaker contest in our club to Area, Division and finally District level contests. As a club we heartily toasted Ryan.

Mary Byrne responded to the toast by confirming that Ryan went to the level of weighing up the use of every word in his speech and once the speech was perfect on paper delivering it perfectly and flawlessly in front of his audiences. Great speeches don’t come without great preparation.

We had the privilege of listening to Angelica Smallwood, our newest member, delivering her icebreaker speech. She entitled it “Dreams” and gave us an eloquent picture of how her life’s choices have all been taken in the furtherance of her dreams. As the third daughter she stood out from birth. Her sisters both bear the initials SLS and she was named Angelica Joy (AJS). Her upbringing taught her that her gifts and talents should be shared with others. When she learned financial literacy she discover ed her dream – to help others become financially literate. After completing a year at Harvard Business School she felt the need for international experience and came to South Africa. Although her Harvard class in currently graduating without her, she is pursuing her dream. In her speech, Angelica showed that she has the makings of a proficient speaker.

Faruk du Pont presented his second speech in as many meetings. His Competent Communicator project 2 speech entitled “Why as humans we need to communicate”, investigated the power of the spoken word. Faruk packed his speech with information and some salient points to record are that spoken communication activates a different part of the brain to reading. As a result we process information better when we hear it than when we only read it. Faruk pointed to the depth of consciousness required in verbal communication because a word spoken without due consciousness can hurt deeply. The hurt caused by something said can cause a far deeper and more lasting wound that a physical lashing. The focus brought to spoken communication through Toastmasters can aid one beyond public speaking.

The debating special in which two teams of five speakers each alternated in persuading the judges that they and their team were best equipped to undertake the first mission to Mars.

The Red Team was led by John-Peter Gernaat and they presented their case dressed in red and wearing a plaque around their necks with a photo of the Red Planet and a declaration that the speaker was going to Mars. The other team members were, in speaking order, Keith Bowen, Jim Powell, Angelica and Glenice Ebedes.

The Green Team led by Cheryl-Lynn Langley arrived dressed in an assortment of odd white jackets (at least one looking like a straight-jacket) and odd looking foil caps that one team member proclaimed kept microwaves at bay while Cheryl-Lynn insisted they enabled telepathic communication. The remaining team in order of speaking consisted of Mary Byrne, Faruk, Jonathan Godden and Rod Taylor, each one a respected captain of a spaceship.

The Red Team drew the lot to begin the debate and Keith explained that the team had an integrated approach with each member speaking on their area of expertise. His responsibility would be to draw geothermal energy from beneath Olympus Mons to power the new settlements on Mars that would be supplemented with methane energy. Furthermore, as expert programmer, his immediate task was to keep IT systems operational and to overcome new requirements without the delay of waiting for feedback from Earth.

Mary, the geotechnical expert on the Green Team, proposed to shuttle horse manure between Earth and Mars to green the Red Planet.

Jim explained the implementation of a social and political system that would allow the participants to vote for the decision makers – as in Switzerland.

Faruk explained that the Green Team had technology that reduced the travel time between Earth and Mars from nine months to four weeks.

John-Peter showed a mineral unique to Mars, called teleskite, that has the properties of optic fibre. Mars is criss-crossed with bands of rock rich in teleskite that will be used for communication. The Red Team has the patent on the technology that interfaces with the teleskite highways of Mars. The clincher is that this technology was installed by a Mars lander and the Red Team have intercepted local communication on Mars and deciphered the local language. This gives the Red Team the advantage of being able to interact with the Martians – visible or invisible.

Jonathan explained how he carried the genetic code, as explained in the movie “Total Recall”, to provide Mars with water. All he needed was his Garmin to locate his water machine (Using which satellites circling Mars?).

Angelica, as the transportation expert of the Red Team, explained that she had already established a Martian engineering team that was well on its way to perfecting travel at the speed of light around the planet using the teleskite communication technology to keep on course.

Rod explained that the manure they were transporting to Mars would be used to create fields of kryo-culture, plant food capable of growing in the -63 to -120 degree Centigrade ambient temperature of Mars. Furthermore, despite the eloquent exposition by Jonathan for making water, the Green Team would use catalytic hydrocretinol to manufacture water. This process creates a carbon sponge as by-product that would be used as chemical fertilizer for the kryo-cultured plants. To celebrate the achievements the Green Team would establish the original Mars Bar, while to protect themselves from the high dosage microwave bombardment that hits the surface of Mars, their telepathy caps doubled as microwave reflectors.

Glenice provided the Red Teams answer to ‘greening’ the Red Planet: the American Greenback being valueless would be used to carpet vast tracts of Mars. To retain the original character of Mars, however, most vegetables and flowering plants would be red in colour.

Cheryl-Lynn wrapped up the Green Teams debate with a full explanation of the ridiculous silver caps that they all wore (tried to wear, because they kept falling off) as tools for mental telepathy.

The vote of the judges (based, I hope, on the quality of the speeches and not the validity of the argument presented) went to the white-dressed, silver capped, Green Team. The reward for winning the debate was a personal Mars Bar.

The Hall of Fame acknowledged the great achievement of Ryan in winning the International English Prepared Speaking Contest for District 74 (southern Africa). But this was not Ryan’s only achievement for the year: it is his technical expertise and diligent administration of the Transformers website together with the content provided by several authors during the year that has won Transformers Toastmasters the Top Website in District 74 for a second year running. Ryan and Glenice are the photographers whose pictures bring the text to life on our website.

The club wished Ryan and Glenice a pleasant Comrades Marathon run this weekend.

The next meeting of Transformers takes place on Monday, 14th June. All members of Transformers are requested to invite t hree guests to this meeting.

The last half hour of th is meeting will be given over to the club’s Annual General Meeting at which the club officials for the next year will be confirmed. (These officers have already made themselves available so there is no need to fear being picked on at the meeting.)

All members should come along to cast their votes and guests are always welcome at our club meeting to learn how Toastmasters offers the best programme to improve public speaking and experience the sociable atmosphere in which this programme is presented.