Today I presented my tenth official speech to my Toastmasters club,
and was thereby recognized as a Competent Communicator.
It's taken a long time to get here. My first speech
(the "Icebreaker") was given on July 19, 2011, and at that was probably
two or three months after I joined the club. The very friendly young lady
who talked to me that first day — and without whom I may well not
have returned — made me promise at the beginning of 2012, when I had
two speeches under my belt, that I would do at least four more that year.
I had been averaging one about every three months so it seemed doable, and
number three was out of the way that day, January 24, 2012, and really I
thought I should be able to accelerate my pace.
Until I just looked at my records, I thought I had easily made it, too! And
now I see that in fact, I did not. I delivered project #7 on January 8, 2013.
(In fairness, there were several meetings cancelled due to the holidays in
December, when I was already prepared.) Even that's not so good, because I
had taken the projects out of order, skipping #6, because the subject of #7 was timely:
it was entitled "Abraham Lincoln: A Fairy Tale", and I had been prompted
to choose the subject because the movie Lincoln had
been released around Thanksgiving.
This year I was really on a tear, doing three speeches in March and April;
unhappily there then ensued a four-month long dry spell. But today:
rain!. (In two ways: it's been almost three years since
I last posted on everything2.)
And now, as you were sure that it would, follows the text of my speech, featuring at least 90% fidelity to
what I actually said. Of course, it loses something (a lot!) when reduced to
Subjunctive Child rearing
- I spoke here a while back, and I told you of one of the ways
in which I was glad that I will never have children.
- A friend and coworker, on reading the speech, told me that while
he respected what I had to say, he thought that the world would
be a better place if I didn't think that way.
- Well, I have an ego just like anybody, so today I'm going to share with
you just a few ways in which I would be the best parent in history if I
My children would exhibit thoughtfulness and consideration for others.
-- Now, many people would say that; they think they themselves fit that
description (and a few of the more deluded ones may even try to include
their little monsters).
-- But _effective_ consideration requires awareness also, and that,
in my experience, is lacking in most people. My children would
understand that, and would always be on the lookout for opportunities
to better someone else's day.
They would also understand that thoughtfulness or politeness that
doesn't serve to better peoples' days by greasing the skids between
them is faux politeness, and those who engage in it are, consciously or
subconsciously, doing so to make themselves feel better about
themselves. When my children want to get on an elevator or a BART
train, they'd let people get off first, after the people who were there
before them. At their destination, what they _wouldn't_ do is
ostentatiously wait for a lady to go first who doesn't see that they're
waiting and thus make it take longer for everyone to get off.
Nor would they stop right in a doorway or at the top of an escalator
while they wonder where to go next, with people bunching up behind them.
They would put things back after using them so they're there for the
next guy. If they made a mess, they'd clean it up so it wouldn't be
there for the next guy.
They would understand that the time of someone they don't even know,
that most irreplaceable of all of our resources, is as valuable to that
person as yours or mine is to us, and treat it accordingly.
My children would share my love of learning; not just the kind that gets
you a silly hat and a sheepskin, but the kind that opens up a corner of the
universe to you that you hadn't seen before. They would share my joy in
-- When I was a boy, my older brother was trying to explain to me the
most basic thing in algebra. He kept saying, if you add one to this
side, you have to add it to that side also; and I'd nod and think
"yeah, whatever". I still remember, 40 years later, the A-HA! of
realizing that it wasn't just mechanical rules, but that you could do
anything you wanted to both sides because they were, in fact, the same,
and you weren't changing that. When my children have such a moment,
either I'd be there with them sharing it, or they'll be practically
unable to contain their excitement waiting to tell me about it.
-- They would never think of adults as "big people who know everything".
If they ask me something I don't know, I'll tell them so; sometimes
we'll sit down and try to work it out together. They would know that
even if they don’t get the answer, asking the question is important.
-- I will not let beliefs go that I know to be untrue. Sometimes with
children, of course, you have to go with a simplified version of the
truth; I'll make it clear that that is what it is, and promise to
someday improve upon it. My children would never, in a million billion
trillion quadrillion years, believe that infinity is the biggest number
-- My children would always be open to finding out that they were
wrong, and to unlearn. If I hadn't been unable to unlearn the deeply
embedded "fact" that dollars equals wealth, I'd be a poorer man
today, in more ways than one.
My children would appreciate individual liberty.
-- They would understand that a society of free people best allows for
the expression of diversity, creativity, and the blossoming of greatness.
They would despise the actions of those people who value their own
lives by how much they can control the lives of others,
even if disguised as "doing good", while they would
recognize that such desires lie latent in everybody and would be proud
when they triumph over this meaner aspect of humanity in themselves.
-- They would -- eventually -- reconcile that with the need for parents
to control their children while they teach them to find human nobility
in themselves and acquire good judgment as they mature. My children
would not be surprised when they realize that one of a parent's
proudest moments is when they see their child standing on his own.
-- They would see that much of the world has forgotten this and
accepted a Faustian bargain trading their dignity as human beings for
the comfort of a metaphorical womb. They would honor themselves, and
me, by attempting to persuade, with their words and their deeds, such
captives to throw off their self-imposed manacles. I would be pleased
if their participation in Toastmasters made them even more effective in
Except when instructing a programming language compiler to
change the type of a data item, they would abhor the concept of
My children would prize rationality.
-- While recognizing (unlike Mr. Spock) that logic does not apply
everywhere, they will reject illogic in the places where it does. They
would not accept the substitution of superstition for an unknown
answer. They would not pretend the world works otherwise than it does
merely because there's an alternative they would prefer. In such cases,
for their own sanity they would take to heart the Serenity prayer and
accept what they cannot change.
In conclusion, my children will be even TALLR than I am. They'll exhibit
all of my virtues, to an even greater degree than I do, and of course, none
of my faults. Oh, and hopefully not addicted to the poison we call sugar.
I hope you'll try to make your real-life children like my idealized ones.