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East is East, West is West, Ever the Twain Shall Meet at Toastmasters


Sugar Speakers Parking Lot

Carol was a U-Per, the upper peninsula of Michigan. A super-duper bean counter after college she took a job with Duke Energy who transferred her to Houston in 2003. Carol’s husband Jeff encouraged her to join him at Sugar Speakers Toastmasters. Carol was the ‘Ah’ queen, but three sessions of receiving the max of 5 dings of the bellhop bell cured Carol of using unnecessary filler words in her speech.


Dino, was our ‘Valley Guy’, and Tex-Mex success story. Dino had a IT job with Exxon and also served as an officer in Exxon’s corporate Toastmasters club. Over half of the 7,000 clubs in North-America are sponsored by Fortune 500 companies. Dino joined Sugar Speakers as a dual club member in order to socialize outside the office politics work environment.


Mustafa, always complained about his fossilized Nigerian-British accent but it didn’t keep him from winning speech competitions. My favorite Mustafa story has him returning from boarding school in London to his home in Lagos. Wearing his three-piece suit, he got in a rogue taxi at the airport with the driver and two other passengers. The driver proceeded to take poor ole Mustafa out in the bush country where the threesome stripped him of his clothes, money and shoes. Welcome home to Lagos, the most notorious city in Africa.


Atina, represented the Houston India population that wanted to Americanize their inherited Indian-English accent. At Sugar Speakers we always seemed to have a fourth of the members from Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam and India. Their stories were similar – they didn’t get any respect for their talents because they couldn’t speak clearly. Vikas Jingran, a Houston ocean-engineering wizard became the 2007 World Champion of Public Speaking, the first non-native speaker to do so.


Vikas Jingran 

Vikas Jhingran - The Swami's Question

Mara, a Jewiss from Des Moines, was our wordsmith as a journalist she crafted competition winning speeches for herself and PR press releases for us. Twice Mara’s writing about the became feature articles in the Houston Chronicle.


Keith, a borderline Cajun from Lafayette, Louisiana, was a club founder and best speech evaluator. He was a gentleman and a scholar in his evaluations, who left each of his evaluees knowing what they needed to do to improve.


Harry, our most linguistically challenged member, was an engineer from Dalian, Mainland China.  There was a Chinese Toastmasters club in Houston but Harry was determined to make a go of it in the mainstream. Harry and I visited the same Vietnamese psychic until the card reader was arrested for tax evasion. Harry became a real estate agent and six months later a broker. Even though I had sold new homes for four years, Harry still taught me everything I needed to know about residential estate.


Toastmasters is an association of like-minded individuals that gather together to improve their oral communications and leadership skills. Lifelong reciprocal friendships are formed among members of every creed, color and nationality.

TMC Xmas 2011 Dinner


After six years of Sugar Speakers Toastmasters in the ethnically diverse Houston I moved to Zhengzhou, Mainland China and immediately joined the Middle Kingdom Toastmasters club. If the West was ever to meet the East in Toastmasters Mainland China was the acid test. Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan had had Toastmasters since MacArthur went back home. There were around sixty clubs in 2008 and over four hundred when I left in February 2015. Together India and China account for over half of the new club growth in the 130 country Toastmasters world.

East is East, West is West, ever the twain meets in Toastmasters because it works. When like-minded people gather in their local community it works to their mutual benefit. Toastmasters has grown almost exponentially, in the last ten years due to Globalization and the adoption of English as the common language. The number one reason the Chinese join Toastmasters is to improve their English. The benefits of finding M/M Right, getting a better job, taking leadership roles, making lifelong friendships and discovering the power of civic associations are revealed.


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