WAMU 88.5 : Metro Connection

Filed Under:

Liberty Toastmasters Hone Public Speaking And Political Skills

Play associated audio
Aaron Fitzgerald is president of the Liberty Toastmasters club.
Eva Harder
Aaron Fitzgerald is president of the Liberty Toastmasters club.

After most staffers have left the Russell Senate building for the day, one group of people hangs around to work on matters a little less legislative: counting ums.

The Liberty Toastmasters club meets two Mondays a month to improve their public speaking skills, and they're just one of more than 120,000 Toastmasters International clubs around the world. Ralph Smedly founded the first club in California in the 1920s, and the organization now has branches in more than 115 countries.

Aaron Fitzgerald, president of the Liberty Toastmasters club, says that its members are from all different professions and mindsets, but most of them do have one thing in common: they're libertarians.

And just like any other Toastmasters club, Liberty Toastmasters follows the same basic structure.

The designated toastmaster of the evening calls the meeting to order, and evaluators, grammarians, and um counters all offer to play critic.

This is all standard procedure for any Toastmasters International chapter. But at Liberty Toastmasters, members have a platform to advocate for libertarian efforts and libertarian ideals.

Libertarians need effective public speakers

Romina Boccia works at a D.C. think tank that requires her to articulate why social security forms are needed. But she also believes she can use toastmasters to push the libertarian movement forward.

"I think that having more articulate speakers will help make the case for free market and economic freedom policies," Boccia says. "And if more people are able to talk about these ideas more persuasively, hopefully we can convince people to rely more on the community than the government."

Dan Whitfield, one of the founders of Liberty Toastmasters, believes that libertarians are at a disadvantage in the political sphere.

"Those who believe in free markets and free minds, we have a difficult, difficult task in front of us. Because those who believe in statism, they can dangle government jobs in people's eyes," he says. "We don't have that. So ours is a much more difficult job of conveying the ideas of freedom to people."

Whitfield believes that public speaking is about empowerment, which is essential to any movement.

"It means conveying ideas. It means empowering both yourself and also the audience," he says. "Even the greatest monsters in history were able to commit their crimes in no small part in their ability to dress up their evil ideology through a good speech."

Meeting in the Russell Senate Building: 'Liberty's in short supply'

When I asked Fitzgerald, the president of Liberty Toastmasters, why they meet in a senate building, he said a former member happened to be a hill staffer. And that staffer's boss happened to be a US senator, who granted them permission to hold their meetings in room 385 of Russell.

But Whitfield thinks the symbolism might be worth noting. "Liberty's in short supply in Washington these days," he says. "We're just sticking a tiny flag in the ground to say that we who believe in liberty, we few have not been forgotten."

And at the end of the meeting, little else is forgotten, as every um, er, and pop of gum is noted. But overall, the evaluators offer constructive criticism, a firm handshake and a round of applause.


[Music: "ABC" by Vitamin String Quartet from VSQ Performs the Hits of Michael Jackson]

Photos: Liberty Toastmasters

NPR

Is It All Greek To You? Thank Medieval Monks, And The Bard, For The Phrase

Ben Zimmer, language columnist at The Wall Street Journal, explains the origin of the phrase "it's all Greek to me" — and shares a few variants from other languages.
NPR

Do Try This At Home: 3 Korean Banchan (Side Dishes) In One Pot

If you've ever eaten at a Korean restaurant, you're used to the endless side dishes that come out with the meal. They're called banchan, and they're remarkably simple to make for yourself.
WAMU 88.5

Cutting Local Taxes in The District

The D.C. Council has taken steps to accelerate tax cuts for all income earners. They're part of a broader overhaul of the city's tax levels, but some council members argued there wasn't enough time for a rigorous debate about the new schedule. We explore the debate over cutting taxes for D.C. residents and how it affects the city's ability to pay for critical local services.

NPR

Reddit CEO Says Miscommunication Led To Blackout Protest

A user revolt briefly shut down the social site last week after a key employee was dismissed. Interim CEO Ellen Pao says the company has "apologized for not communicating better" with site moderators.