By Ankur Bora
( A Toastmasters speech dedicated to President John F Kennedy and first Apollo Lunar Mission)
Do you remember a time when a great and commanding idea flashed through your mind- it came in such a real adrenaline rush of excitement that you could no longer contain yourself, and you wanted to divulge it to everyone, but then all of a sudden, another voice forced its way through your enthusiasm; you hesitated, choose not to act, and your idea died? Friends, most often, our ideas die prematurely because we never take them to fruition. But I grew up with a different perspective, Man’s first walk on the moon was my childhood fascination. For everyone else human civilization began in A.D but for me it began right after the Apollo landing on the moon. I was so fixated that whenever I got a chance I asked “where were you when the Apollo landed on the Moon ?” People often answered by showing me their newspaper clippings from the Times of India or recalling the dramatic All India radio announcement on that day.
Decades later, I ended up in Texas - the headquarters of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. After I settled with my family, one day we invited a few neighboring families for a get together. Everyone arrived, the jovial couple who lived across the street, Dan, and Fay, were the life of the party. When I overheard them talking about the sixties, I asked – Dan, I have a question; where were you when the Apollo landed on the moon? Dan was a real gem of a person; he took my question in stride and began narrating his account – “Well , we were at a summer Boy scout camp where a television was set up at the main camp house for us to watch the landing. I have a black and white picture of the Apollo – come, I will show you.” I was overjoyed, I knew he had a story , I felt a real adrenaline rush of excitement, I couldn’t contain myself and turned to the bright eyed young couple who were in their early twenties. “Where were you when the Apollo …”. But before I could complete everyone started laughing at me. My wife who had been watching the whole episode, rushed to me. “Are you out of your mind? Why are you asking this to them– they are Millennials.” “Millennial! What is that?” It was the first time I heard that word! “Millennials are born in the 21st Century,” she said pointing her finger forward “Your moon story is in sixties- old, ancient for today!” she gestured backward. I tried to explain. “Honey it’s a rhetorical question. Yes, they were not born then but they might have heard about the moon landing from their parents or grandparents. You never know what people know – or who they know – until you ask”. Then, without prompting, I began narrating a childhood story of mine.
The person who had the most profound influence on me during my boyhood was also the most enigmatic to me. He was a retired veteran and I used to address him as uncle. Among all his possessions, his most precious one was a portable radio. Every day, while taking his morning walk, he played it loud and I used to follow him silently listening to the world news. One morning , as he was playing it and I was following him, he suddenly stopped. Now, a stop meant breaking news. What could it be ? “This is the voice of America; broadcasting live the tenth anniversary of the Apollo landing on the Moon. I pricked up my ears with excitement. “Today day was the fulfilment of the dream of President Kennedy who once declared, “We choose to go to the moon not because they are easy, we choose to go to the moon the moon because they are hard.” My uncle raised the volume. “We have the greatest single broadcast in radio history , one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind". Friends , I could not contain myself , that afternoon I rushed to his house and knocked “Uncle I have a question. Where were you when the Apollo landed on the moon?” I was pleasantly surprised as the reticent uncle smiled and welcomed me. Ushering me in, he opened an old trunk filled with stacks of yellowed newspaper. Then he pulled one dated October 24, 1969, which had a glowing headline, “Good will tour” - the Apollo astronauts Armstrong, Collins, Aldrin arriving in India. Then he turned to the next page, the picture of a huge crowd lining up on both sides of the road, a cavalcade sweeping past the street with the astronauts in suits, their arms out waving at the crowd. I just stood their awestruck; I had become a next generation witness to the greatest moment of the millennium. When I completed the story of the moon landing, everyone including the millennial couple reacted with delight.
Friends , I am in early fifties , but I still carry the same childlike curiosity. When a commanding question flashes through my mind, I still feel the same real adrenaline rush of excitement, I still could not contain myself, I still allow my enthusiasm to flow and blossom. Mr. Toastmasters , fellow Toastmasters and friends, by the way, where were you when the Apollo landed on the moon?
Evaluations By Krystal Besaw
In a word - Gestures - Specifically I am highlighting your facial expression in this way, which I somehow never took note of the fact that it is not specifically called out on the evaluation form, was exceptional, infectious even. I think we should let Toastmasters International know that you broke the mold and they should add that section with your name emblazoned on it. The enthusiasm and the passion you have for this subject can easily be felt even virtually.
And in that way I would like to mention your speed of delivery. Emotionally evocative but maybe too fast to grasp every word.
Your hand gesture outward toward the audience is very inviting and uplifts your speech. It's engaging by virtue of the way you are inviting us in. I would like to see you integrate more variation in your gestures, especially with how effective you are with the ones you have chosen already.
Krystal Besaw works as an Organizational Design & Development Consultant for General Motors Financial, leading their Continuous Listening Strategy to enhance the company culture. As a third year Toastmaster, Krystal is President of Lone Star MotorMouths and is Assistant Area 11 Director, having acted as past VP – Membership and VP – Education, and has completed the Effective Coaching Pathway and is Level 3 in Presentation Mastery. Recently, Krystal won 1st place for Area 61 for Table Topics and 2nd place for International Speech, and enjoys membership in Lone Star MotorMouths
Evaluations By Bob Turel
Standing to deliver your speech in a well-lit room with effective audio.
I liked your use of mobility in the speaking area -
Highly expressive facial expressions -
I would like to hear you pause longer after asking the rhetorical question in your opening.
The prop you held up was not discernable to me, so it got in the way. Perhaps a display slide, or large poster?
Excellent use of gestures -
Wonderful use of vocal variety to express your emotions!
Outstanding closing - rhetorical question.