Dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants (Meeting number 585)

On Monday, 12th July the new club committee of Transformers Toastmasters was installed at a dinner held at Mike’s Kitchen in Parktown. The evening turned out to be a cosy affair with only twelve diners. Jenny Shiers, the Division H Governor, was our guest and undertook the installation of the committee as our Area H3 Governor, Rod Taylor, was being installed as Vice President Membership of our club.

As Toastmasters we all owe gratitude to the giants who preceded us. Ralph C. Smedley started Toastmasters when he saw a need among the young men at the YMCAs where he worked to improve their public speaking skills. However, as soon as he moved YMCA the club he had formed folded. A leader only becomes great when his followers achieve greatness. And so it is due to others who saw the value in the Toastmasters Club who chartered new clubs and in due course founded an international organization.

As club officers we also owe the honour of being able to serve our club to those who have served before us and have kept Transformers going from year to year for almost 30 years already. This means that the new club officers have large shoes to fill and a responsibility to discharge the duties they have accepted.

Dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants (or in Latin: nanos gigantium humeris insidentes) is first attributed to Bernard of Chartres and recorded in the 12th century. But, probably the most famous quotation is by the 17th century British scientist Sir Isaac Newton who said: “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”.

Jerry Goodman proposed the toast of the evening to the “pursuit of elegant solutions”. He delved into the value of wisdom, prompted by his own decision to complete a thesis this year. Wisdom is that pot of gold that we are promised can be found at the end of the rainbow of acquiring knowledge. Confucius said that wisdom may be gained in three ways: through reflection, through imitation and through experience. South Africa has come a long way in its preparation for hosting a successful soccer World Cup and Jerry expressed the hope that some wisdom had been gained through this that will be used into the future to continue our forward striving and produce elegant solutions.

No Toastmasters meeting is complete without a prepared speech, not even an installation dinner. We were very privileged to hear a project 10 speech for a Competent Communicator given by Keith Bowen DTM. The requirement of this speech is to inspire the audience. Keith speech entitled: “The Bold and the Dutiful” was filled with great stories and personal anecdotes that led to a powerful call to break free from the dutiful mould into which each one is cast by society and others and act boldly out of one’s individual inspiration.

A young Roman nobleman named Gaius set sail from Rome shortly after Sulla had ordered his divorce. The ship in which he sailed was set upon by pirates and he was held captive for year until a random was paid for his release. During that year he became friendly with his captors. However, on his return to Rome he raised a navy and a year later returned to seek out the pirates and killed every last one of them. The primary credo by which Romans lived is ‘fortune favours the bold’. Gaius went into politics and in due course became a successful general in Western Europe. He became so powerful that the Senate demanded he lay down his command. He refused and led his army across the Rubicon into Italy. In so doing the die was cast and the outcome out of his hands. Civil war resulted and he finally assumed dictatorial power. He was Gaius Julius Caesar.

We fall into the expectations that others set for us and we live towards these expectations. The advertising industry are the worst in setting the standard for everyone. Once everyone conforms, the advertising fraternity hail that it is desirable to break the mould they have just created. Their aim is to create a movement that ‘breaks the mould’ and so we are swept along by the expectations of others. Keith sang when he was at school, not well but lustily. His parents had academic expectation for him and singing and theatre did not fit these expectations. After finishing school neither singing nor drama featured in his life until a year ago when he joined an amateur dramatic society and participated in a pantomime and is currently rehearsing ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’. When one breaks the mould everyone is surprised. Keith’s advice is to balance responsibilities and dreams, and to break the mould of expectation, cross the Rubicon and cast the die to follow your own dreams.

In the evaluation of his speech Mary Byrne quoted from her conversation with Keith that only 2½% of people have the courage to break from the mould that is cast for them by their parents, peers and society.

The installation of the new club officers by Division H Governor, Jenny Shiers was followed by the address of the new club president, Mary Byrne. Her aims for the year are to improve in the educational aspects of the club and bring fun back into Toastmasters. Her theme for the club for this year is “learn through laughter”.

The Toastmaster of the Year award was presented to a worthy recipient how has not only contributed a lot to his club but has excelled as a speaker and has actively networked with other clubs: Ryan Ebedes. Ryan Ebedes was also wished success in his pursuit of the title of best speaker in Toastmasters in the world when he visits USA in August. Faruk DuPont and Rod Taylor were wished for their respective birthdays. The evening came to a demure close.

The next club meeting will be held at the usual venue of the Morningside Country Club on Monday, 26th July. Guests and visiting Toastmasters are always welcome.