In my case, it was standing against quite a few people, one professor specifically, who was adamantly opposed to educating a classroom of students on the Harlem Renaissance. As someone who grew up in an elementary school learning all about African-American writers, poets and civil rights leaders, it was illogical to me to not keep that going in college. A college education is an opportunity to learn from and about a broader audience through culture, race and education. I failed my English final because I wrote an entire paper (later paid and published in Citizens in America magazine) about why the literary canon should be diverse. And that English final with a big, red "F" and no explanation was delivered to me from a teacher's assistant who got on an elevator to bring it down because the professor was too cowardly to do it herself.
I couldn't have been prouder to write that paper. And I rehashed that experience as Speech 7 for Toastmaster's.
By the time I got to the district level to give my speech again in front of a bigger crowd, I was relieved. Finally I would have people to speak against in my five- to seven-minute speech. I incorporated a few jokes, a couple of Words of the Day ("abracadabra" was one of them in honor of the competitor who was irrationally annoyed that I had a PowerPoint presentation instead of just speaking in front of the crowd), and shared my story.
The first-place winner was an outstanding speaker who talked about the time he had a dance-off with the legendary James Brown. I grinned through his entire speech. He deserved to win, and I made a point of telling him that once the competition was over. (I apologize, but I do not remember who came in second or third place for the longer speaking competition. I do, however, remember being entertained by another speaker who talked about the "art of flirting." She was charming. I thoroughly enjoyed the Table Topics speaker whose Word of the Day was "coexist." My longer speech basically was trying to achieve the same points she made in under two minutes.)
And while I did not make it to the Spring 2018 competition, I still beamed as I left the division competition. I enjoyed my time there. Toastmaster's is a fascinating way to find out what is on other people's minds and what inspires them. And for me it was a beautiful excuse to educate four new and different crowds about the power and creativity that sparked the Harlem Renaissance. For all of the people who walked up after I finished speaking and asked about my experience at NMU, that professor, and their own takes on the Harlem Renaissance and Langston Hughes, I thank you a zillion times. It was an honor "speaking" with you.