MS. REBECCA SHEIR
From acting we turn to another kind of performance, one that inspires fear and dread in many a person's heart, public speaking. Now, you may have heard of Toastmasters International, the nearly 90-year-old non-profit that teaches everything from presenting a sales pitch to giving the perfect wedding toast. Well, here in D.C., one Capitol Hill Toastmaster's club is combining the art of public speaking with the art of political persuasion. Eva Harder has the story.
MS. EVA HARDER
It's almost 7:00 on a Monday night in the Russell Senate Office Building, and Joanna, the evaluator for the evening, is going through the number of ums the speakers used during their speeches.
It wasn't an um, it was like this er, uh, something. I’m not sure what it was, but it was really barely noticeable.
This is a meeting of the Liberty Toastmasters club. And this sort of constructive criticism is par for the course at Toastmaster meetings, which began nearly a century ago. Liberty Toastmasters President Aaron Fitzgerald says the group welcomes people from all different belief systems, but most members do have one thing in common, they're libertarians.
MR. AARON FITZGERALD
Liberty Toastmasters is different because we are a politically focused group. We are a liberty minded group.
But just like any other club, Liberty Toastmasters always starts out like this…
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1
Hello, everyone. I will call this meeting to order.
Evaluators, who judge the quality of the meeting and the two prepared speeches, are asked to play critic.
Would anybody volunteer to be a general evaluator to evaluate the overall meeting and to introduce the evaluators for the speeches?
A grammarian, who corrects each speaker's grammar at the end of the meeting, speaks up.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1
Now, you said pretty good a couple of times. It's actually pretty well.
This is all standard procedure for a Toastmaster's get-together, but here members have a platform to advocate for libertarian efforts and libertarian ideals.
MS. ROMINA BOCCIA
The security of the home, the security of a livelihood, the security of social insurance...
That's Romina Boccia. She works at a D.C. think tank that focuses on federal spending. And part of her job is to articulate why reforms are needed. She's giving a seven-minute long speech decrying dependence on social security.
Now, many people abhor calling social security an entitlement. I paid into it with my hard-earned money. It's not an entitlement, I hear all the time. But Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system. This means that today's workers are paying the benefits of today's retirees.
Romina believes giving a good speech can be empowering. And she says the libertarian movement in particular needs effective public speakers.
In terms of the liberty-oriented free market movement, I think to have more articulate speakers will help make the case for free market and economic freedom policies. And if more people are able to talk about these ideas more persuasively, hopefully we can convince more people to rely more on communities and on their own than to rely on the government.
She's not alone. Dan Whitfield, one of the founders of Liberty Toastmasters, believes libertarians are at a disadvantage in the political sphere.
MR. DAN WHITFIELD
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 front of people's eyes. And they can point to factories and say, that needs a bailout, otherwise those people will lose their jobs. We don't have that. So ours is a much more difficult job of conveying the ideas of freedom to people, particularly in an economy as sour as this.
MR. DAN WHITFIELD
And so this gives you the practice that you would need.
And what better place to get that practice than our nation's halls of power? Whitfield thinks the symbolism of their meeting place, in Russell Senate Building 385, might be worth noting.
Liberty is in short supply in Washington these days. So maybe this is our little outpost. We're just sticking a tiny flag in the ground to say that we who believe in liberty, we few have not been forgotten.
At the end of the meeting, a few other things in the evening speeches haven't been forgotten or forgiven.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2
You mentioned somebody earning 100,000 pounds. But you're in America now where we earn U.S. dollars. So I think your audience can better relate to you if you use the currency that they're most familiar with.
But overall, the evaluators end with constructive criticism…
So thank you, Dan, again, for a very inspiring speech.
…a firm handshake, and a round of applause. I'm Eva Harder.
You can see what a Toastmaster's meeting looks like or find a club in your area on our website, metroconnection.org.
Up next, give a kid a fish, you feed her for a day, but teach a kid to fish…
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3
Do you have any words of wisdom about fishing that you want to tell people?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4
And if you're not patient, then what?
You are going to quit. You're going to quit.
It's just ahead on "Metro Connection," on WAMU 88.5.
Transcripts of WAMU programs are available for personal use. Transcripts are provided "As Is" without warranties of any kind, either express or implied. WAMU does not warrant that the transcript is error-free. For all WAMU programs, the broadcast audio should be considered the authoritative version. Transcripts are owned by WAMU 88.5 American University Radio and are protected by laws in both the United States and International law. You may not sell or modify transcripts or reproduce, display, distribute, or otherwise use the transcript, in whole or in part, in any way for any public or commercial purpose without the express written permission of WAMU. All requests for uses beyond personal and noncommercial use should be referred to (202) 885-1200.