Break Down That Wall

Break Down That Wall

As a 13 year Toastmaster ( Worldwide organization that teaches public speaking to adults ). Toastmasters has taught me the importance of learning the art of presenting, as a speaker and a teacher.

Recently I picked up this interesting little book 'The Art of Being Unmistakable" the author Srinivas Rao, writes:

"The future belongs to the misfits?

Perhaps it always has.
It seems fitting that I'm writing this at Burning Man, a strange and alternative pop-up city that had to venture into the middle of nowhere - an ancient lakebed in the Nevada desert, known as playa - to bring itself into being near the end of every August.
  Each time I come here, to this world of portapotties, alkaline dust storms, sweltering days, freezing nights, and no Starbucks - I swear to myself, this is the last freaking time.  And yet there's a point when something in me shifts over and I know I will return.  How could I not? "Welcome home," they say as we reunite with each other on the playa, and it's true.  Even if you've never been here before, the playa calls you home."

In the last line, on page 130 of 'The Art of Being Unmistakable", the author says" It's the opportunity for a performance where you leave your heart on the stage."

 What does the author mean?

So you've have read this powerful little book, it is everything you ever thought about?  It is the commonsense stuff your mother said or your 4th-grade teacher, said?

Then you think about leaving your heart on the big stage; everyone has their idea of what their big stage is.  Do let us explore the art of being unmistakable?  
Each week when I enter the classrooms for 1.5 hr sessions, I see the " opportunity for that performance, in those children "  They have that chance to be unmistakable.

Or maybe.....

  When you're running that  26.2-mile marathon, at 16 miles you hit the wall and the lactic acid builds in your legs.  You think to yourself, a water stop! You walk, your legs burn, and you want to quit.  You down some Gatorade, grab some cookies (sugar, sugar) you want to quit, your legs say quit your brain says you trained and trained, it says no quitting!  The big stage is only 10.2 miles away, eke!  People along the way see and feel your pain, they know, because some have experienced the big stage, they feel your pain. Some know about the big can change your life.

 Soon you will arrive at the big stage and it's just like returning to the playa. It even has portapotties,  this stage may have a Starbucks!  Your body is so tired,  but you have forgotten about the pain!  You have arrived - when you get it, it's so powerful!

Don't we all hit the wall?  Do you wonder what Albert Einstein's parents thought when at 9 years old his teacher said he would never amount to anything?  Do you wonder what he thought? What if that was your child?  What if it was you who wanted to break down the wall?  We know Albert Einstein's story, but how about the next kid, he may not have a 150+ IQ, he may not be smarter than those who put up the wall?

 When Ronald Reagan said "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall"  was it a different wall, not really, but in reality, it's the same wall that separates people from freedom.

Who builds the walls?  It could be you, me, educators, government, bosses or the kids in the school yard.  What if the wall was just in your mind?  Do you think Albert Einstein cared about the wall?  Why do people keep returning to the playa, maybe because they find some answers?  How to climb the wall? How to get to the big stage?

My mission Youth Speaking to America is about breaking down walls.  It's about giving students the chance to become someone.  So exactly what is the big stage?  Is it inventing the iPhone, scoring the touchdown that wins the Iron-bowl, or telling the world about The Theory of Relativity?  You decide.

Youth Speaking to America is about teaching how to open young minds not to ever believe that person who says you can't do that, you're not smart enough.  Remember if teaching children there is no wall, like Walt Disney said " if you can dream it, you can do it" you can.

 Everyone can reach the big stage.  Your stage may be American Idol, teaching children, breaking down barriers like Nelson Mandela,  building Amazon-like ( Jeff Bezos ), or just being a good parent by teaching values.  Remember you don't have to be rich, just be real!

Personally, I don't remember being told this stuff. I did things the hard way because I lacked the education.  The one thing I tell all the students, if you work hard, and be on time, someone will notice.  But if you build your own wall ( no education ) it's so much harder, I would know!

Every child deserves a head start; a head start to become a confident speaker and leader or even be the exception like  10-year-old intellect Dalton Sherman's, keynote speech

  So many will just never know unless you introduce them to a program like Youth
Speaking to America.


"A person starts to live when he can live outside himself." Albert Einstein


How are we filling that toolbox to the future?

Our Spring 2014 Speech / Graduation Powerful

see comments 

 Toastmaster Scott Howard

So impressed and inspired by 27, 5th-grade students at the Youth Speaking to America speech contest and graduation event on Wednesday evening. My friend, York Somerville has been teaching these future leaders the skills to speak in front of an audience. The confidence they each displayed in front of a room filled with parents, teachers, and fellow students was truly impressive. Of course it included lots of laughter and great fun too!

Toastmaster, parent Brent Stephens wrote:

Hi York,


Wow, what an impressive display of talent last night! You are to be commended for a job well done with the students at Pasadena. I'm sure I was not alone in being awed by the poise, the creativity and the passion on display from our next generation of young leaders. Much of what I've heard of the program has been secondhand information from my daughter Alejandra, but I must say, the performances last night were far above and beyond what I had expected. The students showed exceptional command of the key components for public speaking and speechwriting emphasized by Toastmasters. It was obvious they were very well coached and had great enthusiasm for the program.


Alejandra has especially enjoyed the program and it was exciting to see her passion for writing her speeches, especially those about her new year's adventure, roller coasters and sea life. She took great pride in her writing and loved to practice her speeches in front of Maria and me. She returns the favor when I prepare speeches and is becoming an astute evaluator. I know this experience at such a young age has expanded her potential and will serve her for life.


Thank you again for sharing your time, your resources and your experience with the children. You have truly made a positive difference in their lives. 

By student: Lauren B.

I love Toastmasters thanks to one special person. Mr. York. Over the past several weeks, our class has had the honor of the mentoring of Mr. York Somerville in Toastmasters youth leadership program. Mr. York as we called him, always came to our class with a positive attitude. It was almost like he enjoyed working with us! :) Something not many people would do. Mr. York taught us many things; like organization, organizing our speeches, being good listeners, voice project, and use of gestures. We learned how to give and receive constructive criticism through our evaluation guide. Most importantly, he taught us speaking in front of people is not our number one fear, number two being death according to many studies. At this time we would like to show our appreciation of Mr. York with a few memorable gifts. Mr. York please join me at the lectern. First a shirt. You are now officially part of the Pasadena family!!!! Second, a stopwatch. That way you no longer need to endanger your fancy phone. And third, a photo album so you never forget us.. Franklin Delano Roosevelt said this about public speaking, “Be sincere, be brief, and be seated.” As will I.


These students are my American Idols, when they call you “ awesome, funny, a great teacher, exciting, hilarious, most funny and most knowledgeable Toastmaster, and weird!

It swells your head, it moves your heart. 



This Freekazodial evening brings me to tears! The children cleverly wove my invented word Freekazodial into their speeches and Table Topics. As i was talking to the audience about how important learning public speaking in the 5th grade is, I asked how many would like to be President of the United States? Almost every child raised their hand, wow! This class taught by Cheryl Rice is truly amazing. Pasadena Fundamental, expects the students and the parents to participate, and they did.

It is hard to put into words, how this affects your life. When I set out 10 years ago to take my message ( stay in school ) to as many students as possible, I had no idea how the children would affect my life. Last nite gave me the opportunity to promote 'The Artsy Ant Alphabet Art Book , when I first showed this book to this class before Christmas, I saw the excitement in the children. This is a brilliant book for children of all ages. In the moment, in these freekazodial moments, the support of fellow Toastmasters, Lynn Perry, Ruth Liss, Rick Rhodes, Amanda Tanner, Vernon Kearney, Jeanette Sweenney, Vilma Britton and Scott Howard, and of course their teacher Cheryl Rice, is special.