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What a journey this has been. For me, and for you as well. Because my story is not unlike your story. When I walked in to my very first Toastmasters meeting, I never dreamed in a million years that I would be where I am today, that I would learn what I have learned today, or that I would feel what I feel today.
I will never forget my first year as an area governor. That is a special time for any Toastmaster, one that will change your life one way or another. It was there that I met some of the most influential people in my life. Many of you have shaped me over the years. Some old friends, some new friends, and some who I hope to become friends. Each one of you in some way, big or small, has had a lasting impact on me. Sometimes it was your helpful suggestion, or a nod of approval, your show of support. But most of the time it was your kind words of recognition, and many times it was in the way I saw you offer a kind word to someone else who needed it. And that’s made all the difference.
Think about all of the situations in your own journey that has helped to get you where you are today. Was it completing a communication manual? Or a leadership level? Was it winning a trophy at a speech contest? Or being a part of committee chair and challenging yourself to do something you didn’t think you were capable of doing? All of these things are nice, but I think what made the most difference in your life, and in mine, is the kind words of friends.
A kind word is the most powerful force in the universe. Kind words have not built our skyscrapers, or highways, or any booming metropolis. Kind words did not usher in the technology that built the internet, that saves lives, and makes the planet a better place to live. Kind words didn’t do any of that, but kind words built the men and women behind those great accomplishments. Kind words can move mountains.
This year, we intend to move mountains. Together we can accomplish more than we ever thought possible. I have the benefit of following some of the smartest and wisest people I know. Each of you in some way have contributed to building my character and into the person I am today. Years ago when I was an Area Governor I had no idea what I was doing. Today, I am confident – confident that I still have no idea what I’m doing but at least now I know I am surrounded by friends who won’t let me fail. I have learned a lot over the years from some very special people and past district governors. Starting with Celly Adamo, may God rest her soul, the only District Governor to have all 8 divisions presidents distinguished. Celly taught me to think big and to respect others beliefs and opinions. Her year was distinguished.
Alanda Dyer showed me how to laugh and be resilient under pressure. She also showed me how the power of kindness and kind words can make a big impact on so many people.
Bob Hudack taught me to find the hidden talents in people and direct others toward their natural talents.
Maira Pineda taught me to be extraordinary, to find your inner light and let it shine.
Ede, Distinguished District Governor, Ede, taught me how to inspire others and lead by example. Ede is a beacon of light for all of us to follow.
Distinguished District Governor Wes Hoover, saw the big picture but also cared about the experience of each and every member. Wes taught me to see the good in all people.
And Victoria Dotson, someone very special to me, near and dear to my heart. Victoria taught me not to be afraid to take chances. Leaders are not always right, but you can never go wrong if you follow your heart. And Victoria is all heart.
Calm and methodical, Harry Yan, the only Select Distinguished District Governor in Founder's District. Harry taught me to remain focused on the mission. Never lose focus.
Linda Ulrich, always there with a hug and a smile. Linda helped me to recognize the human element in all that we do.
Pan Kao, helped me to realize that we are not super human with super powers. We are just people all working together to make this world a better place to live.
And finally, Siri, a master delegator. How she does all the things she does so well I may never know, but I hope to learn someday.
I’m someone who embraces change. Change is exciting for some but scary for others. The world is always changing. Toastmasters is changing, and we must change as well or suffer. Experience has taught me how important it is to remain laser focused on our mission – to build new clubs and support all clubs to achieve excellence.
What then, about the members? Members are the foundation of our district. Without members we are nothing. Strategies and policies do nothing to instill any real change in the lives of the members. I alone can have little impact on the greater population of our district. But each of you can move mountains, by giving all members the same thing you have given me – a kind word. A kind word is all it takes and doesn’t cost a thing.
Be generous with your kind words. Give a kind word to every guest that walks into your club meeting. Give a kind word to every speaker in your club, to your club leaders, to your club’s future leaders. Give kind words to your Area Directors and Division Directors who work so hard for you. Give kind words to your mentors, your mentees, your friends, your colleagues, those you agree with and those you disagree with. Give kind words with reckless abandon and more importantly, be sincere. Change one person’s life with one kind word, and you’ve changed the world.
Founder’s District hasn’t been Presidents Distinguished in almost 40 years. It’s an ambitious goal, but hey, let’s think BIG! Let’s not be afraid to take chances. Let’s enhance our natural talents and be extraordinary. Stay focused on the mission and above all be generous with our kindness to others, give a hug, give a smile, give a kind word. And let’s be Presidents Distinguished Again!