The area 13 Contest day had arrived. When I went into the Reading Toastmasters Contest I had a very low opinion of “Wings and Chains.” Since then I gave the speech in front of another club. The most important thing that occurred was many people told me how it made them feel. I could see in their eyes that I had struck a deep chord. I slowly began to realize that there was so much more to my speech than I realized.
I was striking chords in other people’s hearts, but more importantly, I was learning something about myself. The more I shared my thoughts about the teacher who treated me so rudely and what happened in subsequent years, the more I began to realize that, not only was I beginning to believe my own message of “forgiveness sets you free,” I began to realize there was more to the message than I realized. I felt better about my speech going into the Area 13 contest and, considering what happened the year prior, I thought I may have a good chance.
This year there would only be two competitors; Lillie and Me. Lillie was the professional speaking coach which I had beat out for the 2007 Area 13 International Speech Contest and she was back to compete again. I pulled the number one spot. I felt good about the time I spent on my preparation and the advice I had taken. I was as ready as I would ever be.
When the contest started, I went to the front of the room and started my speech. I felt good in my presentation and, like every other time I gave this speech, I felt a little more weight of my grudge fall from my shoulders.
When Lillie stood and began speaking, it was immediately obvious she had spent a lot of time preparing for the contest. She had researched two characters from history and she sang a few bars from a song toward the end of her speech in which she told us that we must reach for our dreams, no matter how impossible they may seem. She was truly prepared.
At the end of her speech, I wasn’t sure who had won. I felt I had put in a great effort, but Lillie came to compete and she was the one with all of the experience. She sat right behind me and said that she thought she went over in time. A part of me was happy to hear that, then I realized I didn’t want to win like that.
When it was time for the announcements, there were no disqualifications which meant Lillie didn’t go over. It was a fair contest in my mind. The Toastmaster announced the winner. “The winner of the 2008 Area 13 International Speech Contest is … Michael Donlan.”
I was surprised. I couldn’t believe that I had beaten someone with so much experience and training under her belt two years in a row.
After I had given the speech, I began to realize that I now believed what I said. Forgiveness truly does set you free. After a long fight, I finally made this bucking bronco of a speech mine and I was ready for the division contest. But this year it would be a different division contest since Area 13 was taken out of Division A and put into Division E. This would mean competing against new competitors and in front of a new audience. Despite that, I had a feeling I only had a few other times in my life. I knew what was going to happen. I knew I would win the Division E contest.