Toastmasters International Semifinals 2nd-place Winning Speech – A Good Harvest – 2013

Click here to read just the story, A Good Harvest, without all of the staging cues.


Final draft: August 20, 2013 • Read-through time: 6:45

(Speech text with === [stage directions] ===)



[Starting at the back of the stage, walk to the front of the stage, slightly squat then jump into the air while throwing hands into the air, land and bend knees to a half-squat position, then straighten back up while throwing both hands into the air again, and loudly say] YES! This is a Good Harvest!

Family has it’s ups and downs, but the goal is always the same. You want to be able to jump up and yell:

YES! This is a Good Harvest!


Contest Chair, fellow Toastmasters and honored guests…


When I was a kid, Dad always talked about a Good Harvest. And one day I said, “What do you mean? We’re not farmers!” And he said, “That’s exactly what I mean! Like a farmer trying to raise good crops, we’re just trying to raise good kids.

[Kneel on one knee] Let me show you WHY a Good Harvest is so important, son:

Raising good kids [right hand 1/2-way up]

raises the value [left hand 1/2-way up]

of society. [both hands up higher]

[Stand back up]


And when I turned 7, my world got turned upside down. My parents got divorced.

Divorce is like a broken fence, that never gets mended. [puppet arm]

Twenty years later, when I was 27, I got divorced.

Another broken fence.

And after watching how Dad treated Mom after they got divorced, I knew exactly how to treat my ex-wife: you give her the cold shoulder and you move on with your life!



And then a funny thing happened on the way to the rest of my life…

I discovered I was WRONG about how to treat my ex-wife!

=== STAGE-LEFT ===

If you’d been with me at a recent dinner party you’d have heard me say, “I have an AMAZING ex-wife!” And you would have heard people laugh at the joke! Then one of the guys said, “You’re kidding, right?”

Everybody thought I was joking. “No”, I said. “I really do have an amazing ex-wife.” And you would have heard a woman at the party say, “I wish my ex-husband talked about me like that.”

Then she asked, “How in the world did you get from being divorced and angry (gesture to stage-right) to saying your ex-wife is amazing (gesture down)?”

“How did you get from there (gesture to stage-right) to here (gesture down)?”

=== CTR-STAGE ===

The HOW is easy: I apologized for being a jerk to my ex-wife during our divorce. The more important question is: WHY? Why did I apologize?

I want to be happy!

The book I read said, ‘Look, if you want to be happy, you can’t also hate your ex-wife!’ The math just doesn’t add up!

The book taught me to VALUE all people!

That includes my ex-wife! She’s people, too – LOL.




So in 1996, 5 years after I got divorced,

I decided it was time to mend my broken fence.

So I called my ex-wife and I said,

R: Lisa, I am so sorry for being a jerk to you during our divorce.

And I imagined her on the phone, with her Elizabeth Taylor eyes when she said:

L: Thank you. (pause) What brought this on?

R: I read a book.

L: What book?

R: Don’t laugh.

L: I won’t laugh.

R: Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

L: I’ve heard of that book. (pause) And it made you apologize? How come we (step forward; crouch) didn’t read that book when we were married?

R: Because we were spending too much time being in love! – LOL

=== CTR-STAGE / MID ===

When I told Dad I was apologizing to my ex-wife, he said,

No, no, no, don’t do that. (both hands in front, waving “no”)

Once you get divorced, you do not (arms hashed across front of waist)

go backwards

But, Dad, didn’t you hear the great conversation that Lisa and I just had, right over there on that part of the stage?!? (gesture to stage-right)

It’s just not a good idea to apologize, son.

“What taboos are holding you back?”



Ten years later, on Nov 24, 2006…

=== STAGE-LEFT ===

Me, my brother, on his iPhone, and Dad, in his retired uniform, shorts and short-sleeve shirt, are standing next to a 6 foot rose bush, right in front (gesture to back of stage) of Mom’s place.

Dad, says, “I’m going to apologize to your Mother. I’m going to apologize to your Mother for being mean to her during our divorce.”

WOW! (2 steps backwards; BIG surprised look on face)

Only 10 years ago, Dad said apologizing was a bad idea. (gesture to ctr-stage / mid).

Now, (gesture down) Dad is following my example.

I turned to Dad and said, “Your apologizing to Mom will stay with me and Lance for the rest of our lives!”



=== CTR-STAGE ===

Because divorce is like a broken fence (arms break apart, scarecrow arm)

And Dad is reaching out (step forward)

and mending that broken fence (crouch; run hand back-and-forth across rail)

with a simple: I’m sorry. I’m sorry.


The next night, we all went to dinner.

And both my parents, my Mom and my Dad,

sat at the same dinner table (outline large tabletop with hands)

for the first time…

in 35 years! (hands on bent knees)

=== CTR-STAGE ===

My hope for you is this… that reaching out and mending just one broken fence… transforms your world!

=== CTR-STAGE ===

Family has its ups and downs, but the goal is always the same. You want to be able to jump up and say this, my family, my life, my world…:

YES! This is a Good Harvest!

How I Prepared for the 2013 Toastmasters International Semifinal Speech Contest

Behind The Curtain – 2013 Toastmasters International Semifinal Speech Contest

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