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Toastmasters International Turns 85
by: Michael Varma
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After 85 years, this nonprofit organization still thrives.
After 85 years, this nonprofit organization still thrives.

Eighty-five years ago, Dr. Ralph C. Smedley held the first official Toastmasters meeting in the basement of a YMCA in Santa Ana, Calif. Not even Dr. Smedley could have envisioned the history he was making on that day. The organization that started as a small group of people dedicated to teaching after-dinner speeches to young men has evolved into a worldwide leader in communication and leadership development. Since that first meeting in 1924, more than 4 million people have benefited from the Toastmasters experience.

“Toastmasters’ long-term success and growth is a tribute to Dr. Smedley’s vision,” says Toastmasters International President Gary A. Schmidt. “He understood that communication isn’t optional and leadership isn’t always innate, but both can be learned through doing.” Today, Toastmasters’ 250,000-plus active members participate in over 12,500 clubs spanning 106 countries. From Dubai to New Zealand, Saskatchewan to Connecticut, each day thousands of Toastmasters participate in meetings to learn and practice valuable communication and leadership skills in a supportive environment.

Mission Viejo Mayor Frank Ury supports the nonprofit organization’s 85th anniversary by proclaiming Toastmasters’ Month and local Possibilities Unlimited Club President Marguerite Rathbone and Area Governor Russ Ahlberg proudly display the certificate. Mayor Ury encourages all Mission Viejo citizens to recognize the many accomplishments and opportunities in communication and leadership this outstanding organization has realized for people everywhere.

Michael Avedissian of Reading, Pennsylvania, is one of the organization’s longest-term members. He moved from Germany to the United States in 1954 and joined Toastmasters the following year. He credits the Reading Toastmasters Club with saving his engineering career and his new life in America by helping him learn and practice English. “Toastmasters gave me the ability to deliver the reports and presentations that were required for my career.”

Many organizations stall or even crumble during difficult economic times. Toastmasters has withstood the test of time and has even grown 5% annually since 2005 because it offers practical skills that are critical for success in today’s competitive environment.

Ann Maxfield of Austin, Minn., recently was able to begin a new career as an e-learning coordinator at Hormel Foods. With her Toastmasters training, she aced the interviews. “People in management know about Toastmasters and look to it as valuable training for the skills and experiences they require in employees,” she says.

The Toastmasters program also helps political and business leaders prepare for the demands of their positions. Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle is one of many with political aspirations who found help in Toastmasters. “It is the best and least expensive personal improvement class you can go to,” says Lingle.

Clubs around the world will celebrate the anniversary with special meetings. Locally, Possibilities Unlimited, which meets at Carrow’s Restaurant 28502 Marguerite Parkway, on Mondays from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. will offer special presentations. The general public is invited to visit for free and learn more about what Toastmasters has to offer. Visit their web site at www.putm.org or call 949-459-2223 for more information.


Michael Varma is a freelance writer, professional magician for more than 20 years, and an award-winning distinguished Toastmaster and knows what it takes to entertain an audience. Varma is a published author of educational puzzle books and games and frequently performs at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, Calif.
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