I Used Punk Rock and Hip Hop Lyrics in My Toastmasters Speech

Words and environment impact your life. In this speech from the Toastmasters manual, The Entertaining Speaker, I outline a musical anthology of my life from childhood to adolescence and into adulthood. Influences include weekly immersion in Soul Train, Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder, Rapper’s Delight by Sugar Hill Gang and People’s Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm by A Tribe Called Quest.

In the 80’s there was fun to be found in the punk rock scene. Songs mentioned and sung in this speech: California Uber Alles and Police Truck by The Dead Kennedys and New Dreams by Naked Raygun. I finished up with my theme song: Galvanize by The Chemical Brothers with Q-Tip on vocals.

Left My Wallet in El Segundo – Agape Toastmasters Remix

Listening to hip hop as a young girl gave me an education in the power of words and imagery. In this speech from the Toastmasters Storytelling manual, I take the liberty to consider the popular hip hop song, “Left My Wallet in El Segundo” as a folk tale and I retell it in my own words.

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Start a Master Mind Group.comWhen you think about it, every musical act you know of is using the Master Mind principle whether they realize it or not. They are joining together as a team with a combined vision. You can use the same principle and make some truly rockin’ things happen in your life.

Do you have a creative project you want to complete? Do you want to find a purpose for your life?

If so, I invite you to come over to my brand new page called Start a Master Mind Group.com. I’m offering 4 freebies to get you started so you can get a sense of what the Master Mind is all about.

There’s nothing cool about holding back.

Women Speaking: International Women’s Day March 6

Agape Toastmasters, Culver City, CA
Men and Women Speaking with Purpose and Power

March 6 is International Women’s Day, a great time to celebrate and highlight women speaking and making a difference. I wanted to share about an organization, Toastmasters and a woman, Helen Blanchard. Women speaking with power and purpose can create transformation.

I joined Agape Toastmasters in 2008. Even though this club was far from my house and meetings were held Saturday morning at 8:30, I wanted to be there. I didn’t just want to learn to speak, I wanted to speak with purpose. I wanted to learn from women speaking in a diverse club with male and female members from various parts of the world and different ages and ethnicities. I wanted a club that supported women speaking.

The Agape Toastmasters club mission is to “foster an unconditionally loving, mutually supportive and highly inspirational environment”. This mission guided me from terror to transformation. The more I got to know my fellow Toastmasters, the more I realized we all had something in common: the desire to use our lives to make a difference.

When I was fairly new to Toastmasters, I read an article in the November 2008 Toastmaster magazine written by Julie Bawden Davis The article made me I realize that the concept of women speaking is something our world at large is still in the infancy stages of embracing.

Women Speaking: Helen Blanchard at Toastmasters
Women Speaking: Helen Blanchard at Toastmasters

The article was about a woman named Helen Blanchard, Toastmasters’ First Female President in 1985-1986. It was an engaging article and I was following along without incident until I read these words: “By 1973, women were allowed to join Toastmasters clubs and she was able to use her real name.”

Wait, hold up. Women were “allowed” to join Toastmasters in 1973? I’m not prepared to process the fact that 35 years ago, in my lifetime, women speaking was forbidden in Toastmasters. The thing is, Helen Blanchard joined Toastmasters before 1973, she just had to pretend she was “Homer” until she was “allowed” to be Helen.

I shall purposely avoid the desire to break into a rant now. Instead, I will share a quote from the article with you that I think is important for all women to really bask in: “Everyone used to call Helen a women’s libber, but the truth is, she’s a ‘people libber,'” says Chuck Borough, a member of Downtown Escondido Toastmasters who has known her for over 40 years. “Helen has chartered more than 40 clubs,” he says. “Toastmasters is twice as big as it would have been without Helen.”

Turn down the heat and simmer in those words for a while. Let it sink in. Then, do something about it. If you live in the Greater L.A. area, consider stopping by as a guest at Agape Toastmasters one Saturday morning.

iPod Playlist and PowerPoint Presentation for Toastmasters “All One People” Contest

When it comes to creating a vibe of unity and diversity, nothing can beat the combined power of music and images.  When asked to provide the music and visuals for the District One Tall Tales and International Speech Contest in Culver City, I got my inspiration from the theme: All One People.  I pulled a diversity of images from Google as well as my own collection and I chose songs that create and All One People feel.

If you’re a Toastmaster and would like to use this PowerPoint for your next presentation please feel free.  It’s available below as PowerPoint and PDF. I would like to ask that you keep the Agape Toastmasters group photo and the Get Galvanized photo in the mix but otherwise you can edit and add your own flair to it.

From Get Galvanized

“All One People” PowerPoint
“All One People” PDF

What I did was save the playlist to my iPod then took the iPod to the contest and plugged it into the sound board. The music played over the P.A. and created a festive, party-like feel. Some people spontaneously shook their hips and snapped their fingers and the overall vibe of the event was flowing and fun.

Get some of the songs I played at the contest on iTunes. Click on the links below. Here’s the playlist of the day:

Beautiful People (ft. Macy Gray) by Black Eyed Peas
Everyday People – Maroon 5 by Sly & The Family Stone off Different Strokes By Different Folks

If Everybody Looked The Same by Groove Armada

Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin by Sly & The Family Stone

Shining Star by Earth, Wind & Fire

Where Is The Love by Black Eyed Peas

Toastmasters: What Can It Do For You?

Cynthia Lamb, spiritual counselor delivered a powerful speech at Agape Toastmasters describing some of the benefits she’s enjoyed as a result of her 2 years of membership.

Cynthia started her speaking experience with lots of “ahs” and “ums” in a manner she describes as “all filler, no content”. After using the manuals provided by Toastmasters she learned to be a competent leader and communicator. Toastmasters gave her the courage to pursue her larger goal which is to share a message of spiritual healing through forgiveness with an International audience.

She recently appeared on a panel of experts lead by Blog Talk Radio host, Michelle Ann Johnson titled “Conscious Kickstart” and did a very powerful presentation which included a guided process for forgiveness. She is kind enough to make this available to the world via this YouTube Video. If you need to heal a broken heart for any reason, you owe it to yourself to check this out.

Cynthia Lamb recently earned the highest award Toastmasters offers: Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) and to do it in 2 years is an exceptional feat.

Agape Toastmasters is that kind of place. I joined 2 years ago and I was shaky and hesitant in my first few speeches. I would get so nervous that sometimes I was practically incapacitated for an entire day. But with practice and support, I became stronger and stronger.

I have used the supportive, creative environment to work out some ideas for a character, (my alter ego) Gal Vanized. When I started Toastmasters I had 7 years of experience as a college instructor under my belt. Somehow I had convinced myself or been pressured to believe that I had to “tone it down” and “be professional”. Which meant that pink wigs and punk rock gigs were out of the question.

To that I say, Why?

And this semester I’ve used music videos in my Introduction to Victimology class to highlight some of the songs that describe the abuse of power and control in our society that leads to crime and therefore victims.

I got bold enough one night to put on the pink wig in my Introduction to Domestic Violence class and tell my story of running away from an abuse filled home to find a better life. What Toastmasters did for me is give me the courage to say what I want to say, how I want to say it.

What will Toastmasters do for you?  You’ll never know unless you check it out for yourself.  Toastmasters is an International, non-profit organization. “The mission of a Toastmasters club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every individual member has the opportunity to develop oral communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.”

Click here to find a club near you.

Consequences of a Music-Less Life

I’m still curious and confused about the seeming lack of availability and interest in new, emerging, underground music. Maybe I’m a rare case. Maybe music means more to me than most but here’s my story of how a lack of music almost killed me.

In the 80’s I was a teen and a punk rocker. I was basically on my own after the age of 16 so I went to every gig I could, some times going to live shows 2-3 times in one week. Little did I know, this constant barrage of punk and alternative music was shaping my opinions, passions and politics on a deep level. Punk rock actually gave me wings. I admired the dedication and bravery of the musicians I went to see. I realized that I wasn’t the only one who noticed that some things are not right in the world.

I don’t have to tell you, no one wanted to hear what the punkers had to say in the 80’s. Most of the shows I went to had less than 100 people in attendance. When things got too big or too crazy, the cops were always there to break it up and take people off to jail. In some cases the riot squad greeted you as you entered the concert hall, just to let you know who’s in charge. Now, here we are, 25-30 years later seeing the teens of today listening to the music of the 80’s as if its something new and revolutionary.

May I interject here that the punk artists kids are listening to today aren’t just entertainers, some aren’t even technically musicians. Many punkers had no idea how to play their instruments when they first started. Many of them created hand-made fliers and had them photocopied free of charge on someone else’s photocopy machine. Most punks didn’t have contracts or agents. It was sheer grit, determination and persistence that kept the bands that you know about today alive. There are many, many other punk bands, some just as good or better than the ones you know about. The main difference is that some gave up and some didn’t. Punk legends like Mike Ness of Social Distortion exist solely due to determination.

Heres my beef: if the kids of today are listening to the music of 20 years ago, where are they getting the lesson of sheer grit, determination and persistence? Who is going to carry the torch and speak about today’s issues, most of which are the same as the issues of the 80’s, only worse. Why are the youth of today listening to anti-Reagan songs and not anti-Bush songs?

But I digress. I still haven’t explained how lack of music almost killed me. You see, when I was about 18 it was clear that my drug addiction was serious and I needed to do something about it. By the age of 21, I had been in several recovery programs and was beginning a process of wanting to change my life. For me, that meant I had to stay away from the old people and the old places. Gradually I began to slip away from my punk past and tried to be more “socially acceptable.”

The compelling need to “fit in” accelerated drastically when I entered college and eventually University. I found myself completely forgetting all about punk rock and gradually went to fewer and fewer live shows and even stopped listening to most of my records and tapes. I was proud of myself for a while, maybe too proud. I was reaching my goals and moving up in the world. I got a degree, then another degree, then another. In the process, I completely disconnected with my punk past.

I tried to fit in, get the jobs and connections I wanted. I was not connected with punk in anyway. I never had the opportunity to talk to anyone about seeing GBH at the Olympic Auditorium two times in one week or seeing the Ramones every year at the Paladium. I couldn’t listen to punk rock on the job and frankly, I found punk rock to be distracting to me and my goals.

Eventually music even began to annoy me. I was mad at the neighbors when they played it too loud. I saw myself turning into the cranky old drag that I encountered in most adults I met. I began running on auto-pilot. I listened to rap and hip-hop, maybe just because it was there and everyone else was listening. I was becoming noticeably depressed. I was training to be a therapist and sitting in meetings talking about “clients” who have “problems”. All the clients and problems were familiar to me, a part of my past.

I believed that each client I saw had potential to overcome whatever they wanted. I believed they could be whoever they wanted to be. Yet none of the ‘professionals’ agreed. I was shunned, not taken seriously and basically told “you’re just an intern, what do you know?”

On the one hand I was offended by the callous and careless way professionals talked about the people we were supposed to be helping but often I kept my mouth shut. When I did open my mouth, there was always a consequence. I was dismissed from more than one position for having an opinion. I tried to keep my mouth shut. I became more and more depressed. I chastised myself and thought to myself “why cant you just be like everyone else? Why can’t you just fit in and shut up?”

So, there I was, training to be a therapist and for the first time in my life, I found it completely necessary to take anti-depressants. I literally felt like I was going crazy and that was especially disturbing in light of the fact that I was supposed to be helping people!

Ironically, it was when I was “cleansing” my negative past that I found my soul mate and reconnected with music in a new and positive way. My husband, former owner of Zed Records in Long Beach was in the store when I brought in a stack of vinyl to sell. In the process of sorting, scanning and observing my records for their suitable re-sale potential, I sparked up a conversation with the man who would become my husband within about a year. He liked hockey, I liked hockey. He liked punk, I liked punk. We enjoyed each others company. But it would be almost 10 years before I began to realize the significance of our match and the importance of music in drawing us together.

In 1998 I experienced small reminders and nudges of who I was and who I could be but I wrote most of them off as the “idealistic, unrealistic, drug-induced fantasies” of the past. I would hear the nudging call to action in songs by Black Eyed Peas and A Tribe Called Quest but I mostly hid my love of hip-hop because fears like “what will people think, I should grow out of this, I’m just some old person trying to be cool.” Hip Hop and Punk were like guilty indulgences I hid from the ‘professional’ people in my life.

Once I got an iPod, things really began to change. Once I was able to easily carry the soundtrack of my life in my purse, able to listen to the Buzzcocks followed by Snoop Dogg and chased by Social Distortion anytime, anywhere; I began to transform. My dreams re-awakened. Lyrics of power, being yourself and letting go of concern for what others think lifted my soul.

I began to tell people, “I used to be a punk rocker.” I described my spiky blue hair and my shaved head. Some people laughed, some people said “cool”, others were entirely speechless, still others said “no way” as they stood there with their eyes bugged out.

The familiar lyrics and sounds of the underground began to stir something within my soul. I began to remember who I really was. I stopped caring about what everyone thought. I started to think about what I want for my life rather than what society wants for my life. I began to realize the traps I build around myself and how the mainstream society reinforced the validity and ‘rightness’ of those traps. Sometimes I was pissed off. Other times I was shocked. Sometimes I was sad but mostly I was determined. I was determined to revive the 16-year-old punker in me. I was determined to take her out of the closet and say look world, here I am so $*& you!

I could go on and on but mainly I have a deep, nagging fear and this is why I’m writing this long post. If the youth of today have no role models to show them how to be independent, to start their own businesses, to live free of corporate oppression, what on earth does the future hold in store for us? Will it be a rehash and reinforcement of the same old, same old? Will George Orwell’s 1984 be a reality?

Remember, most of the popular anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications on the market didn’t even exist in the 1980’s and now they are being passed out like candy to many people as a cure-all for the ‘problem of depression’. Rates of depression increase in society and pharmecuetical companies become more powerful. What if the depression is from oppression? If so, all the pills in the world aren’t gonna help.

Listening to music that’s 10, 20 or 30 years old makes about as much sense as reading newspaper articles from 30 years ago and claiming that you are informed and educated. The time is now, with the advent of instant information for all of us to step out of our boxes a bit and look at what’s new while continuing to enjoy what’s old. I think we need to listen to the message under the message.

Punk is more than just a bunch of rebellious, belligerent youth with a lack of classical music training. Punk is a movement and a statement about deciding to be who YOU are not what society determines you should be. Right this moment new music is being created by new people. Some of them will be huge one day, others will fade away but if you’re sitting at home listening to the same stuff your parents listened to, you’re missing out on the real-time experience of history in the making.

(Me and the Black Eyed Peas in 1998. They played at a record store inside Universal Studio Walk, about 30 people were there to see them….if that. Truthfully, most people were there to see Kobe, a well-known soccer player, BEP just happened to be the “opening act.” If you were paying attention to alternative radio (KCRW.com/Chocolate City) you could have been there. I will tell you this: NOBODY except me asked for their autograph and to take a picture with them. I have the Behind the Front album signed by the entire band.)

I’m so grateful that I had all the experiences I had in life and Im grateful for the opportunity to experience first-hand how plain, ordinary (and sometimes downright untalented) people say “I don’t care” and go for it anyway. And guess what, it ends up that it doesn’t matter if someone is good or not. As long as you are clear about who you are and don’t give up, you will make it. That’s the message under the message. Do you hear it?

(This article was originally written in 2006)

On Hosting the Agape TM Live Show

sheri-is-mcLast Saturday, December 12 was a fun and exciting day for me. I already wrote about how I won Toastmaster of the Year last week, and it’s taken me this long to re-group and reflect on another aspect of the morning which was being the host of the Agape TM Live Show.

While planning for our year-end party, we had brainstorming meetings and came up with the idea of a Red Carpet theme so we could dress up like stars and have some fun. I recommended an awards-style twist on Table Topics.

Table Topics is the impromptu portion of a Toastmaster’s meeting where you call up a speaker and ask him or her to talk about a topic for 1-2 minutes.

How I set it up is that prior to the meeting, I contacted all the members and asked them to tell me two interesting bits of information about themselves that most of us probably wouldn’t know.

I took those bits of information and used them in two ways, one as the basis of a treasure hunt game. We passed out a sheet with some these bits of information written on it then people had to guess which bit of information went with which person. Some of the match-ups were pretty hard to guess.

The second way I used the information was to generate a Table Topics intro. I would introduce each guest by telling a little bit about what they were going to talk about, then they would come on stage and tell the story in their own words. Below are some pictures of the Table Topics speakers and what they spoke about.

joanramirez

Joan Ramirez tells us about the time when Jim Morrison of The Doors pulled her up on stage and planted a huge kiss on her lips! She had the crowd on the edge of their seats.

susanlowe

Susan Lowe tells the audience at Agape Toastmasters Red Carpet Awards celebration about the days when her children were regulars on Sesame Street.

brucegordon

Bruce Gordon entertains the audience at Agape Toastmasters Red Carpet Awards celebration as he showcases his live comedy act.

dianemosberry

Diane Moseberry tells the audience at Agape Toastmasters Red Carpet Awards celebration how she used her speeches to educate her child regarding practical life skills.

After the interview-style Table Topics we handed out awards.

johnmclaughlin

John McLaughlin shows off his “Best Film Editing” award at Agape Toastmasters Red Carpet Awards celebration. Club President Cynthia Lamb shows her enthusiasm and support.

shirelynasonmitchell

Shirley Nason Mitchell is awarded “Best Original Screenplay” at Agape Toastmasters Red Carpet Awards celebration.

food

Before, during and after the Red Carpet awards, we had good food to eat thanks to Linda Lloyd.