Saturday, May 16, 2009

Partially Filled Glasses

This morning, I and two other regional Toastmasters were judges for a speech contest conducted by the North Atlantic District of Optimist International. I confess, I had never heard of Optimist International before, but it turns out that they are a service organization like Rotary, Kiwanis, and Lions, with local clubs doing all sorts of community-oriented activities, a lot of it having to do with helping kids raise money for school, giving out scholarships, etc. The folks we met--who are based in Syracuse--are about as dedicated to their clubs and organization as we Toastmasters are, and they are a great bunch of people.

The speech contest was for kids (ages 10-15, or somewhere thereabouts) from upstate New York and New England. They were required to give a 4–5-minute speech on "What optimism means to me..." and, man, some of these kids could easily go up against any seasoned Toastmaster (well, maybe in a couple of years, at any rate). My joke going into the event was, if
I have to speak on that topic, I'll be chased from the building and/or have my car set on fire. But they all had a diverse set of perspectives on the topic. Some of thsoe speeches were extremely well-written.

One common "motif" in many of the speeches was the old chestnut "is the glass half-full or half-empty?" My own response tends to be a function of how the water level got to where it is--that is, which direction was the water traveling when it got to the current level? If the glass had been completely full, and was then emptied to the halfway mark, then it's half-empty. If the glass was in fact only filled up to the halfway mark, then it's half-full. If I am presented with a glass utilizing of 50% of its capacity, I guess I can't say either way without knowing more about the history of the glass and water. But then, maybe I'm overanalyzing this a bit too much. It's probably about at this point that my car would be set alight...

At any rate, it was a very fun event, and I did realize that the event organizers have one problem we typically don't have to deal with when organizing Toastmasters contests: parents who freak out when their kids don't win!

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