Local Toastmasters celebrate 29 years

"I have a voice!" Colin Firth as the king exclaims to his speech therapist in the Oscar-winning film "The King's Speech", to which the therapist replies "Yes, you do." The film tells the compelling story of King George VI who had the throne thrust upon him as WWII loomed on the horizon. We watch as he overcomes his stutter and gains the confidence to lead his people. Ultimately the film ends as the King delivers a flawless speech live across his nation.

Everyone has a voice of one kind or another and the ability to use it effectively is the purpose of a club formed in 1924. Toastmasters International's mission is to assist its members to become better communicators, more assured of their ability to relay their ideas to an audience of one or many. Today TI has more than 9000 chapters in over 80 countries with a current membership exceeding 200,000.

Three CAVAC volunteers formed the Cazenovia club in 1982. Fred Ludwick was an emergency medical technician and a member of the Syracuse Toastmasters Chapter, The Empire Statesmen, which was formed in 1959. Together with George Schmitt and Harry Sparks, they founded a local group and named it The Owahgena Toastmasters. As founding member Jack Altmeyer recalled "the diligence and talent of this trio culminated in our Charter Banquet held in June 1982." Jack, the current club Treasurer, remembers guests at the banquet in tuxedoes and cocktail dresses. Recent meetings are more relaxed in dress and not nearly as full of active members. Cathy Nagle, a member for several years, wondered why this is. "Learning to speak in public, I think, is one of the most important skills a person should learn how to do well," she said.

Carol Coufal teaches Public Speaking at Cazenovia College and encourages her students to attend at least one meeting a semester. Carol, a professional, still feels the meetings are a benefit to her. "I teach this, but I come to learn," she said.

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