Toastmasters, TableTopics, Wellness and Liberty – My Initial Experiences With the Organization


Last week, I was asked to go along with a friend to a Toastmasters meeting. Despite a 40-some-year career involving lots of public speaking, I had never been. It’s not that I wasn’t interested. I did not doubt it would be worthwhile to turn up at a Toastmasters function. I’ve long been interested in articles and workshops on speaking and leadership skill building. Yet, for one reason or another, I never got around to making the effort. But, last week, my friend was going to a Toastmaster meeting for the first time herself, and wanted a little support. She was rather persuasive about the fact that I just had to go. Since my friend was also my wife, I agreed.

Toastmasters International has a global presence in the world. It has 292,000 members in 14,350 clubs in 122 countries. Meetings are designed in a learn-by-doing format. The basic goals are improved speaking and leadership skills along with confidence gained from repeated exposures to their no-pressure atmosphere.

My First Meeting

It was good fun. We enjoyed the local club members and the way the meeting was conducted. We found the experience beneficial and entertaining.

However, while I was sitting back, minding my own business during the meeting, I was (despite being a mere visitor) suddenly called upon for an impromptu speech. This was during what is called the Tabletop section of the meeting. I don’t even remember the exact question but I had plenty of opinions on the topic and took full advantage of the opportunity to share them with the group. In doing so, I made references to other ideas and points made by earlier speakers.

The talk seemed to go well. I got laughs, lots of head nods as I went along and even applause. But, I got something else as well – I was asked to compose the Tabletop questions for this week’s session. (One person in the audience always gets this assignment for the next meeting.)

Naturally, I seized the day, so to speak. I eagerly accepted, thinking that this would be an opportunity to share my passion about the importance of a REAL wellness perspective on life. I would choose a theme from the four REAL elements or dimensions of this quality of life concept.

I decided to frame all the Tabletop questions around the L dimension of REAL wellness, namely, liberty or personal freedoms.

My Tabletop Questions Ready to Go

I wrote eight questions and a little introduction to the questions. Here is my introduction including a few simple format directions, as required by the Toastmaster tradition:

In the course of my long association of 7 days with Toastmasters, I have come to appreciate the TABLETOPICS tradition as a tool for promoting articulate ad-libbing. This tradition clearly makes future occasions when called to ad-lib less stressful and more enjoyable.

Today’’s topics were selected by your topicmaster – that’’s me, to support a theme we all care about but view in different ways. The theme is personal freedom or individual liberties. Sound good?

When your name is called, at random, to respond to a Q, please stand next to your chair and give your response – time alloted is up to 2 minutes.

Now, take a deep breath and get ready to be remarkable!

  1. Should Florida voters follow the lead of Colorado citizens in legalizing possession and use of small quantities of marijuana?
  2. Should Florida citizens with licenses to carry concealed weapons be allowed to take firearms into movie theaters, or anywhere they bloody choose?
  3. Do you consider the post-1954 Pledge of Allegiance to be a genuine, heartfelt affirmation of patriotism that unites citizens, or a divisive prayer that violates the Constitution’’s separation of church/state and unfairly pressures a sizable segment of the population to affirm what they do not believe – that America is any more under a god than are the other 194 nations on this earth?
  4. Should women be allowed to sunbathe topless on Florida beaches?
  5. Is Edward Snowden, who released tons of NAS secret information, a hero or a traitor, or something in-between these extremes?
  6. Should a woman have the right in America to terminate her pregnancy for any reason whatsoever?
  7. Should the 1% & other super – wealthy in U.S. be taxed a lot more than they are?
  8. Can humanity on its own, without supernatural guidance but with a little help from poetry, art and social vision, create and sustain a reasonably good and decent society? In other words, can we be good without god (s)?


During the week leading up to the meeting, I joined Toastmasters (as did my wife). I have no idea how these questions will be received by those called upon or what kind of commentaries might follow each question. However, I am looking forward to the session.

And I hope I’m still a member of Toastmasters in good standing when my second meeting has adjourned.

All good wishes. Look on the bright side and be well.

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