私が属しているトーストマスターズクラブの 最大のイベントである春季大会が、5月18日(金）～5月20日(日）に東京の代々木オリンピック青少年センターにて開催され、私はスピーチコンテストの コンテスタントとして参加し、3位に入賞した。 この大会の優勝者は、8月のアリゾナ州フェニックスで開催される、国際大会に 臨むこととなる国内で最後となる大きなコンテストであった。 全国の各地区を代表する スピーカーが集まっていただけあり、当然のことながら、参加者のレベルも大変高く、この様な大舞台で大勢の前で話す機会に恵まれたことを大変ありがたく 思っている。
コンテストの結果は、一位が「大和バイリンガルクラブ」の東 公成氏、2位が「東京トーストマスターズクラブ」の Ruskyle Howser氏、そして 3位に｢岡山トーストマスターズクラブ」の 私が選ばれた。 一位、二位のお二人とも 素晴らしいスピーチで、私も非常に学ぶところが多かった。 今だ、思い出すと あの時の興奮が つい昨日のことのように よみがえってくる。 残念ながら、優勝は逃したけれど、ここまでに至る道のりは 私にとって、大変貴重な経験となった。 今年 3月初旬の岡山でのコンテストから、エリアコンテスト、ディヴィジョンコンテストを経て、全国大会に挑んだのだが、一回一回 スピーチコンテストの場を踏むたびに少しずつ自信もついてきて、スピーチをする醍醐味を味わうことができた。 この経験をステップにして、新たな挑戦に向けて頑張りたいと思う。 またこの経験を生徒さんのスピーチ指導に活かし、スピーチをする楽しみを皆さんと分かちあえたら幸いだ。
I still remember the first time I made my ice-breaking speech. I was terrified. My heart was beating fast, and my hands were getting sweaty. But just before my name was called, my friend whispered to me, “You’ve got nothing to lose. Just think you are talking to a bunch of pumpkins. You can do it.” “Right.” These encouraging words helped me survive my first speech without fainting. My fellow pumpkins, our lives give us many challenges, big and small. Sometimes we may feel we can’t take it any more. We need encouraging words, because words have power to energize us and even to change our lives.
My first big challenge came in my last year at high school. I still remember one evening in June. I just woke up from a nap in my room and was about to go downstairs to get something to eat. The moment I opened the door, I was met with thick smoke blocking my way. My blood froze. I had never felt so scared. I didn’t know what was happening. But it didn’t take me long to realize the house was on fire. I dashed out of the choking smoke to get my parents working in the nearby rice field. Soon, fire engines came, but too late. Everything burned up in front of our eyes; our memories, everything we had accumulated over the years. My parents and I, shaking with fear, stood there, helpless, unable to move.
For many months, our family had to live in a tiny makeshift shelter our considerate neighbors built for us. Though still young, I could tell the serious financial difficulties this had put our family in. People said I should feel fortunate to be alive, but I wished otherwise. I thought the fire took my dreams for the future as well. I hated my life. I knew my father and all my relatives laid out a perfect plan for my life; to work at a local department store for a few years, find a rich man through a matchmaker, get married and live happily ever after. Not a bad plan for them. Just when I was forced to give up my dream of going to university to study, my mother stood up for me against all expectations. She said, “You should do what you want to do with your life. You and I will work together to make your dream come true. You can do it. Yes, we can do it.” You cannot believe how much her words encouraged me. She had trust in me, which helped me trust myself. I finished university and, what’s more, I even got a scholarship which enabled me to continue to study in America. Here I am, talking with you. My mother’s encouraging words are the reason I am here today.
Ohira Mitsuyo is a person who has had a great impact on my life. Her autobiography is a testimony to how words have changed one person’s life. You wouldn’t imagine her sad childhood from her current successful career as an attorney. She was neglected, bullied and abused by her classmates. But the worst mockery was yet to come after her unsuccessful suicide attempt. Her classmates’ bitter, insensitive, hostile words were enough to make her turn to a life of self-destructive delinquency, until her uncle’s caring and encouraging words brought her back from the abyss of despair. He said, “You are responsible for your own life. Stop blaming your environment for your misery. You have the power within you to change your life. Trust me. You can do it.” At last, somebody heard her inner voice crying out for help. From that moment on, she changed. She studied day and night to make up for lost time and finally passed the near-impossible exam to become an attorney.
Bitter words can stab us and crush us. Caring words of encouragement can bring forth the best within us.
Japan ranks among the top five nations in the world for the number of suicides. Especially, last year saw an alarming number of teen suicides. Powerful and positive words of encouragement from their friends or families could have saved these people’s lives.
If you see people around you faced with serious setbacks in life, don’t hesitate to reach out and give them inspiring words. Let them know that they have the power within to take hold of their own lives. Your words will help them overcome difficulties and face life with courage. Exercise the power of words. You can change people’s lives.