Project 8 for Competent Communication – POW/MIA Recognition – 5 November 2013

This speech was an honor for me to do.  I learned about the POW/MIA table at Homefront America’s Heroes Night Out this past summer and wanted to share it with others.  I missed doing the speech for National POW/MIA Day this past September, so I wanted to do it in time for Veterans Day and with permission of the VP of Education for the club, skipped forward one speech to do it. (Speech 7 is Research Your Subject, Speech 8 is Get Comfortable With Visual Aids).  In my research, I found that some POW/MIA tables are a little different from others (some sites listed having a yellow ribbon on the vase instead of a red one) and some have prayers attached with the ceremony.  If I missed something, I meant no disrespect.  I only had 5 minutes so I did not use a prayer and they suggest using a round bistro style table but I only had square ones at the restaurant.  I added the flag and moved the pictures there during the break for all to see, but normally you would not have pictures on the table.  And for those of you keeping score, I won best speech and I only had one Ah/Um!

I am proud of my country and am thankful every day for those who have fought/are fighting to keep her free.  This speech is dedicated to all of you, but most especially to those who are standing an eternal watch over our beloved America.


George Washington said, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”  Although I was born during the Viet Nam era, I remember nothing about the war.  Through my studies, I learned that Viet Nam vets were not treated well by our nation.  It is surprising to me that we have as many volunteers in today’s military as we do based on what happened to the previous generation.  What does this have to do with tonight’s theme of Fun Facts About November?  Did you know that November is National Military Family Appreciation Month?  For some families, this is a time when they reminisce on their military family member whose whereabouts are unknown.  It is to these brave men and women that I dedicate my speech tonight.

When I mention POW/MIA, or Prisoner of War/Missing in Action, what comes to mind?  If you are anything like me, you immediately think of Viet Nam.  Show of hands here: How many of you immediately thought of Rambo?  I cannot say I have ever seen a complete Rambo movie, but that is what I think of.  However, there have always been, and will continue being, POW’s and MIA’s as long as there are wars.  For example, US Navy Electrician’s Mate Second Class Harold K. Wagner was one of 84 souls listed as MIA when their sub, the USS Snook, failed to make contact again after her last report on April 8th, 1945.  US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has been a POW of the Taliban since 2009.  They are but two examples of tens of thousands of POW/MIA personnel who have defended our country over the years.  To honor those who have endured and may still be enduring the agonies of pain, deprivation and internment, a remembrance ceremony was developed.  You may have seen these in VFW halls or military events and not understood the meaning behind it.  After tonight, I hope you will forever more be mindful that the sweetness of enduring peace has always been tainted by the bitterness of personal sacrifice and give these tables the honor and respect they deserve. USA_PFC_BoweBergdahl

This table, set for one, is small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner, alone against his or her suppressors.

The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms.

The single red rose in the vase, signifies the blood that many have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America. This rose also reminds us of the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep the faith, while awaiting their return.

The vase is tied with a red ribbon, a symbol of our continued determination to account for our missing.

A slice of lemon on the bread plate is to remind us of the bitter fate of those captured or missing in a foreign land.

A pinch of salt on the plate symbolizes the countless fallen tears of families as they wait.

The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God.

The lit candle is reminiscent of the light of hope, which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from their captors, to the open arms of a grateful nation.

The wine glass is inverted as they cannot toast with us this night.

The chair is empty for they are not here.

In the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Great War, or the war to end all wars, came to a close when Germany signed an armistice.  A year later, November 11th was made an American holiday, but it would not be until 1938 when Congress finally got around to issuing a Congressional Act to make Armistice Day an official National holiday.  In 1954, the name of the holiday was changed to Veterans Day to honor not only veterans of the Great War, now better known as World War I, but also veterans of all wars.  I bring this up tonight as next Monday is Veteran’s Day.  Let us remember and never forget their sacrifices.  While I encourage you to thank all the veterans you know, I also ask that you keep in your thoughts and prayers those who are not with us such as Sergeant Bergdahl or Electrician’s Mate, Second Class Wagner, or, as he is better known to me, Uncle Harold.  To conclude my speech, I would like to ask all our veterans here tonight to stand up so that we can thank you for your service.Wagner-H-K-279a


Project 4 for Competent Communication – The Art of Negotiation – 23 July 2013

For my fourth project, I again went with the evening’s theme to prepare my speech, this week being The Art of Negotiation.  I was happy to win, but even happier to hear that the Ah-Counter had zero items to report on me!

Good evening fellow Toastmasters and guests.  The theme for tonight is The Art of Negotiation and it is just that… an art.  One of those skills that is learned from early childhood.  “If you let me stay up for 5 more minutes, Aunty, I promise I will go right to sleep and you won’t have to read me any stories… well, maybe one story…..”  How many times have I heard that one?  Or the more somber, “if you bring my grandmother safely through this surgery, God, I promise I will go back to church.”  From the mundane of postponing a bedtime to the praying to a divine being for a miracle that a loved one pulls through, every day you are negotiating.  One does not even need another person in order to negotiate.  When I reach that weight loss goal, I will get to use my new purse.  I have been within 2-3 pounds for a month now.  That purse has been on the hall tree for me to see every time I walk by.  It is mine.   I found it, I paid for it…  Technically, I can use it anytime I want.  However, I made a goal that I would not use it until I hit the 50 pound mark.  One could call that a negotiation between my mind and my body and I am not going to break that agreement no matter how badly I want to use that purse right now.

Negotiations skills vary from person to person, industry to industry, and culture to culture.  Some people live for the thrill of negotiating, others just want a set price and are happy without any fuss.  Entire phenomenons have grown from industries known for their negotiations.  Who here has seen “Pawn Stars” or “American Pickers”?  They are reality shows about series of negotiations with some small talk thrown in for a little education and/or comic relief.  What about different cultures?  Yousef said last week, the Iranians love to negotiate, but the Indians beat them every time.  Some of the biggest negotiations I have ever been involved with have been on trips to the Mexican border cities of Nogales and Tijuana.  Some of the vendors there are very determined.  One followed me down the street after all I did was glance at an item in his store.  He was giving me lower and lower prices, but I was not interested. He said, “What’s the matter, you no speak English?”  With a puzzled look, I asked “Parlez-vous français?” or “Do you speak French?”  He looked at me for a moment, then turned and went back to his store.  Now before you get too impressed with my French, all I know is “Parlez-vous français” and “Merci.”

Online, there are tons of websites with negotiation tactics for dealing with everything from cars and hotels to contracts and salaries.  Tonight, I am going to bring you some tips for negotiating in 2013 by Ed Brodow, author of Negotiation Boot Camp.  Due to the length of time I have available, I am only going to touch on a few of them, but you can find all 10 at his website.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Everything is negotiable and do not take no for an answer.  However, know the difference between being assertive and being aggressive.  You are assertive when you take care of your own interests while maintaining respect for the interests of others. When you see to your own interests with a lack of regard for other people’s interests, you are aggressive.
  2. Shut up and listen. Follow the 70/30 Rule – listen 70 percent of the time, and talk only 30 percent of the time. Encourage the other negotiator to talk by asking lots of probing, open-ended questions.
  3. Do your homework. What are their needs? What pressures do they feel? What options do they have? Doing your homework is vital to a successful negotiation. You can’t make accurate decisions without understanding the other side’s situation.
  4. Don’t be in a hurry. As I stated above, negotiations change from culture to culture.  Brodow thinks being patient is very difficult for Americans and Europeans as we just want to get it over with.  People in Asia, South America, or the Middle East look at time differently than we do. Whoever is more flexible about time has the advantage. Your patience can be devastating to the other negotiator if they are in a hurry because they start to believe that you are not under pressure to conclude the deal and they offer concessions as a means of providing you with an incentive to say yes.
  5. Aim high and expect the best outcome. Successful negotiators are optimists. If you expect more, you’ll get more. Sellers should ask for more than they expect to receive, and buyers should offer less than they are prepared to pay. Your optimism will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. On the other hand, if you have low expectations, you will probably wind up with a less satisfying outcome.

I hope you been inspired to brush up on your negotiation tactics.  Remember to (1) be assertive, not aggressive, (2) follow the 70/30 rule, (3) do your homework, (4) take your time, and (5) aim high.  I leave you tonight with these parting words from Henry Boyle, “The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people half way.”  Merci beaucoup and bonsair, fellow Toastmasters and guests.