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Pursuit of excellence

Workshop Agenda

  1. Welcome and Intro

  2. Speech Ankur Bora

  3. Speech Shannon Hills

  4. Speech Claryce McConnell

  5. Instrumental Music Vanessa Rivera

  6. Unveiling of Portrait - Prachurya Baruah ,an Young Artist , India

Speech Pursuit of excellence ( by Ankur Bora)

There are two types of leaders: motivational and inspirational. Motivational leaders are those who get hold of an idea, work toward a goal, and carry it through to its conclusion. On the other hand, inspirational leaders use their leadership roles to inspire, to change lives, and to leave beautiful and lasting legacies. Then, there are leaders, a rare breed, who are motivational as well as inspirational. Fellow Toastmasters, friends – today’s workshop is about one such individual – a leader who, while creating fellowship in Toastmasters, is also positively impacting individual members like me to pursue and achieve excellence in life.

All through my adult life, I identified myself based on my profession and my possessions. When I was a young adult and when people asked me, “What do you do?” my reply was, “I am an IT professional and I write code.” It went on for ten long years until I was promoted to Project Manager. Then, when people asked me, “What do you do?” my reply was almost the same, “I am an IT professional, and I am a manager.” I was reaching a dead end. “Is this really all there is to me, is this the goal of my life?” Fortunately, I found Toastmasters and a very special person - as I got to know more about her my perspective on life changed.

She is Denise McConnell. Denise was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago. When her parents moved to New York, they gave young Denise the best gift of all; an education at Emma Willard School, recognized as one of the nation's leading college-preparatory boarding and day schools for girls. Denise excelled in her study. When she was ready for college, she got scholarship at Juilliard for music and was also accepted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for Engineering. Juilliard School has been ranked the world's best university for the study of performing arts, while MIT is considered a world leader in science and technology. She reached the pinnacle of excellence at a young age, and she has continued to excel ever since. It is always a delight to watch Denise McConnell – whether she is conducting a meeting or a evaluating a speech or answering a table topic question , there is extra touch of quality in her voice and demeanor each time. Friends, true inspirational leadership is more a matter of character than achievement. She is someone who draws on the experience and expertise of her professional and personal life to engage, inspire, and empower individuals, improve organizations, and positively impact the world.

Denise is always appreciative and eager to recognize someone for work well done. When I was invited by USA Today to speak at the Austin Storyteller, Denise was the first to congratulate me – “Ankur, Congratulations on your continued achievements. Your courage inspires me.” And when I delivered my final speech to complete the Presentation Mastery Pathway she commended me on my special recognition – “The growth you have accomplished through this path was very evident tonight—great job on your speech.” Denise recognized me for my effort and made me feel a sense of pride in my accomplishment. Such acknowledgement boosted my confidence and inspired me to achieve more. Denise McConnell is so authentic—she genuinely cares about the people around her, and she enjoys seeing people realize their highest potential.

Life is not about what we have and what we do, life is about what we become. The goal of life is not to see what we can make of it, but what it can make of us. Friends, after joining Toastmaster and getting to know Denise, today I have a clear sense of purpose and meaning in life. Thus if someone asks me “Ankur, What do you do?”, I would rather say , “I am a Toastmaster, a story teller, a writer , a blogger, a community leader” and I say it with immense pride. Life is about what we become is now my Mantra , my pole star and my compass. Friends, Denise McConnell is special because she inspired me from within; a kind of internal inspiration which will never fade, but forever will endure. Thus, even if I grow depressed, disillusioned, or unhappy I simply picture Denise, how awesome she is. Everyday I ask myself “What is the most I can do?” Dear fellow Toastmasters and Friends, give this question a permanent place in your inner dialogue and you will perform at the highest level, you will reach the bar of excellence and you will reach your dream.

Speech ( by Shannon Hills )

I have the pleasure of speaking about Denise as a leader. I can still remember the 1st time I met Denise, and the 1st time I heard her give a speech back in 2017. I can’t recall if Denise was Sergeant at Arms, but I do know, she was the 1st person to greet me: “Welcome to Highway to Excellence”. Her rich, lush voice and radiant smile, immediately putting me at ease after a 3-year hiatus away from Toastmasters. She invited me to sit next to her and she showed me the ropes. Why we don’t announce every role, how we pass bags around to offer comments to speakers and vote, and the purpose of the workshop portion of the meeting. She exhibited the leadership styles of both service and coaching. I can’t recall the topic of the 1st speech I heard Denise share, but I recall her making a statement something like this; “This club has so many esteemed leaders, I’m here because I want to really grow”. At that moment, Denise was reflecting on the past and the present: a room full of past District Governors, District leadership staff, public speaking champions, and more DTMs than the law should allow. Denise saw something in us. 5 years later, Denise is the epitome of us. I didn’t attend last year’s District conference, but from what I’ve heard, Denise transcended like a ladder through the clouds to new heights as Conference Chair. I’ve heard how Denise planned, organized, led, inspired, collaborated, and yes…served and coached. When you think of an effective leader, who comes to mind? Is it Jimmy Jones, bringing the Dallas Cowboys two super bowl victories? Is it Mother Theresa and the way she loved and served with conviction and humility? We live in a culture where we tend to myopically focus and illuminate those on the outside, today, we pause to celebrate and honor one of our own: Mrs. Denise McConnell. Thanks for being the hands and feet of Toastmasters. No job was ever too small. And you demonstrated last year as Conference Chair, neither is any job too big. What’s next my friend, the trio? Denise, thank you for leading with heart, humility and excellence.

Instrumental Music by Vanessa Rivera

  1. Tribute to Denise - Introduction

  2. Tribute to Denise - Wind Beneath My Wings :


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