Kevin Stamper. “Speak Up.” “Speak Up.” Kevin Stamper. If you can hear my voice, would would you count to three with me? One, two, three. Isn’t that amazing? I mean your counting abilities are spectacular but it’s amazing you hear so many voices together in one room, isn’t it? Madame Contest Master, my fellow Toastmasters and communicators; growing up I had a lot of babysitters which either means that a lot of people like to hang out with me or that my parents really didn’t. My favorite babysitter was named Kelly and after years of me teaching Kelly how to be compassionate and how to be patient and how to serve others, she decided to venture into a new career path that was less challenging and she became a nun. And the day came where Mother Teresa was coming to Kelly’s convent to name the incoming nuns and so all the new nuns came out and stood in a single-file line, one after the other, desperately waiting to hear what Mother Teresa would say to them. And Mother Teresa went straight down the line naming each and every nun until she got to Kelly and she asked Kelly, “What would you like your name to be?” and Kelly said, “I don’t know you’re Mother Teresa. Why don’t you choose for me?” And Mother Teresa said, “Well, what was your mother’s name?” and Kelly replied “Nancy.” Now apparently Mother Teresa was a little bit hard of hearing at this point in her life and she replied, “Oh, Sister Mercy! That’s a beautiful name,” and continued down the line. And so Kelly ran to her mother nun and said, “I need to talk to you because I think I just got named incorrectly. See, my mother’s name is Nancy but Mother Teresa named me Sister Mercy.” And Mother Superior said to her, “Well did you tell her this?” And she said “Mother Superior, are you asking if I tried to correct Mother Teresa?” And the mother nun said, “Sister Mercy, it’s not her responsibility to hear you. It’s your responsibility to speak up.” See fellow Toastmasters I believe every single one of us has a responsibility, not just to learn to speak but to learn to speak up in our homes, in our jobs, in our communities. The fact that we can speak at all is this physiological phenomenon. When your brain tells your body that it’s ready to speak, these two tiny tissues about the size of your thumbnails come together, and they’re gooey and they’re gelatinous, but as air passes through them they begin to vibrate and they create a buzz and that buzz is carried up through your throat and it bounces off the hard and the soft surfaces of your mouth and face and what comes out, what is created, is your unique voice. It’s a voice that cannot be automated, it cannot be duplicated. There is no algorithm in the world that can recreate your unique voice. But the question is, Will you use it? Seven years ago my wife and I had a child and she taught me compassion and patience and how to serve, but there was one lesson than I had yet to teach her. See my daughter, Jane, she was happy and she was healthy and she could hear, but she was silent and the silence became deafening. So around her third birthday we took her to a therapist. Now I know all of you with teenagers right now are thinking, Why would you do that? Just let her stay silent. And the therapist asked me, “Is there anything you do that gets her to make noise?” I said, “Well, I guess there is one thing.” So I went to Jane and I picked her up, I looked her in the eyes and I said, “one, two, three!” and I threw her in the air and I caught her and she began to laugh, she began to giggle. The therapist said, “Do that again,” and so I took her again I said, “one, two, three!” and she began to babble and she began to murmur. The therapist said, “Do that as often as you possibly can.” So every day I would come home from work and go right to Jane and I’d go, “one, two, three! ,”, “one, two, three! ,”, “one, two, three!” until my back hurt, my shoulders were sore. Over and over again, “one, two,” check for the ceiling fan, “three!” And one night it was just Jane and I in the house and I put her in her high chair to eat dinner as I washed the dishes next to her. And the house was silent, which was normal for us, and suddenly I heard this sound that I’d never heard before. This little tiny voice said, “ah, ooh, eee!” And I panned the room, not sure where was coming from. I heard “ah, ooh, eee!” And my eyes locked with Jane’s and I could see her head cocked and her dimples showing. She was learning that she had a voice. And I ran to her and I picked her up and I said, “Say it with me Jane! One, two, three!” and since that night I have not been able to shut her up. But I haven’t wanted to because that night I heard a voice that I’d been dying to hear and I believe that there is a world around you that is desperately waiting to hear your unique voice. See I’m not here tonight because I believe I have something important to say. I’m here because I believe you have something important to say, that there are friendships waiting to be formed, there is forgiveness waiting to be given, there are families waiting to be strengthened because you have something to say and you’ve been given a voice. But it’s your responsibility to speak up. So let’s do it together. “One, two, three!” Madam Contest Master.