1968 Minnesota -- My favorite teacher was Charlie Martin, my high school speech teacher. He has long since gone to meet his maker, but I still think of him from time to time. While teaching high school speech, he wove his boundless wisdom and Irish charm into countless mini-lessons that built character and self-confidence.
It seems like a lifetime ago (Duh, I guess it was.) when I took Charlie Martin’s required tenth grade speech class. I enjoyed watching other students make fools of themselves during their first speech, and remember thinking how nervous my best friend Lee looked when Mr. Martin gave him the “thumbs up” to start his speech. I knew my turn would come soon, but I was a tough wrestler – not afraid of anything. That is, until I stood all alone on a stage in front of real people for the first time in my life.
There I stood; my tongue was numb.
I looked at him; up went his thumb.
“Oh no,” I thought. “It can not be.”
“Did every sound stop just for me?”
The quiet room was so profound.
I stood and looked without a sound.
I tried to speak, but nothing came.
“A broken voice – that is to blame.”
And then he gave an Irish wink.
“I have the courage now, I think.”
“He knows I can. And so do I.”
I understood I wouldn’t die.
I took a breath and let ‘er rip.
The words were rollin’ past my lip.
The story flowed from day to night.
I spoke and spoke with all my might.
When I was done, he smiled at me.
I sat back down and grinned at Lee.
That day I learned the lesson well.
“A speech is fun. It isn’t hell.”