Posted on February 24, 2011
If you’ve come here, it’s probably because you received a message from Toastmasters World Headquarters. Thanks for responding.
My name is John Bowe. I’m a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine. I’ve written on subjects as diverse as modern slavery, love, moonshine and the Octo-mom.
I reached out to you because I’m writing a book about Toastmasters membership in the United States. It’s called I Have Something To Say, and will be published by Random House. The book is about you and your journeys through Toastmasters. On a larger scale, among other things, the book is about rhetoric, and what it means in modern America. There’s a quote from Plato that expresses my aim very nicely: “Rhetoric is the midwife of the soul.” I want to use the book to show what it is we gain by learning to communicate ourselves to others through the spoken word.
I’m looking for people, located all over the US, who will be subjects for the book. What this means is that I will interview you over the next 12-16 months, perhaps visit you from time to time, and try to document your experience with Toastmasters and how it affects your life. You can remain anonymous if you like, and we can change some details of your life to preserve your anonymity.
My hope is that the people who respond to this letter are as varied as can be: tall, short, black, white, young, old, north and south, rural and urban, coming from all ethnic groups and any educational background. The main criteria is whether you think your life has been transformed (in great ways or small ones) by learning to speak up, thanks to Toastmasters.
Here is a very limited list of the kinds of people I’m hoping to reach:
Someone who was absolutely unable to talk to their husband or wife or have good relationships until they finally learned to speak up; A business executive who had career problems until he or she learned the secret of clear communication; A felon in a prison chapter of Toastmasters who was so angry and inarticulate as a youth, the only form of expression they knew was violence;
Someone who was crippled with shyness before finding Toastmasters;
I’m hoping that you will surprise me by having better stories than these. I’m sure you will. By all means, you do NOT have to be the world’s best public speaker. That isn’t important here. I’m just looking for people who feel like they have something to say and can describe their journey from inarticulate to more articulate.
Please feel free to ask me any more questions about the book.
Please do not feel like you have to answer all of these. Answer as many as you feel like answering. Thanks for your time.