Have you ever experienced the joy and reward of teamwork? The kind of teamwork that produces results when someone has a great idea but cannot bring the idea to completion by themselves. This backstory is a peek at 5 different Toastmasters who were drawn together to contribute their individual skills toward a goal. The goal was to support Madonna Hanna’s quest to submit a story to the editors of the Toastmasters International Magazine. That’s right! The very same magazine read by hundreds of thousands of Toastmasters every month. 

The terrific magazine story stands on its own. But this backstory didn’t begin with the intention of writing a magazine story about two athletes. It actually began because two athletes, both in training for the competitions you’ll read about in the magazine, gave a very special powerful keynote speech. Imagine that Toastmasters, it began with a speech!

As mentioned earlier, this backstory is the who, the how and the when 5 Toastmasters came together as a team to propel both Madonna and Marcus across the magazine article finish line. The Toastmaster Magazine article team includes Madonna Hanna (Evergreen 333 Express), Marcus Chambers (Thursday Night Live), Rumi Keast (Gig Harbor club), Marvin Wiley Jr. (Success Speaks) and Teresa Hovland (Ontario Toastmasters 5398, formerly Gig Harbor Club). 

Story written by Teresa Haviland.

It begins with the invitation Madonna extended to Marcus when she asked him to join her in giving an important keynote speech at the Eastside Baptist Church Youth Explosion and Lock-In event. The task of the keynote speaker was to raise the awareness – of the academic importance – of achievement among African American students. Madonna and her late husband had provided support to at risk African- American Students by creating unique opportunities to raise their self-esteem and confidence. 

Madonna began public speaking at a very early age. Her audiences were not exactly given to providing much direct feedback but she was determined to make an impression. Using a coke bottle as her mic she would read the carefully crafted introductions she had prepared, and then go on to interview her guests, her dolls and toys. During those interviews she would comment on what they were wearing. She had designed and made their clothes herself.

In high school Madonna excelled in speech and drama classes as well as participated in theatrical productions and coordinating public relations campaigns. Those experiences were the platforms that launched her long-standing career in multiple aspects of the fashion industry from being a runway model to a corporate fashion merchandiser to a fashion marketing instructor in high school and technical college classes. 

Madonna realized a huge opportunity had presented itself. Having shared the love of track and field with Marcus when he became her track coach, she discovered his interest to become a motivational speaker. She could not ignore the chance to create a memorable, influential speech for young people in the audience. If Marcus would agree to accompany her on stage, they would be able to present insightful perspectives from two different generations, to the youthful audience searching for answers. 

Marcus’ love for track and field was ignited when his grandmother suggested he give them a try. He had been playing sports throughout his life and he was always the fastest guy on a team. As a college student in Oregon, Marcus was selected as one of the University of Oregon Athletic Department, “O Heroes”. As an “O Hero” representative he was entitled to speak at schools in the Eugene/Springfield area. Most of his speaking sessions with students consisted of Q&A but sometimes he got to share his story. It was during these “O Hero” sessions he began to realize he was inspiring the students. When he was a senior in college, he was invited to speak at the Oregon Athlete Donor Dinner, an event that seated a thousand guests. His interest in public speaking was sparked as he began to realize he enjoyed speaking to people of all ages.     

Considering Madonna’s invitation, he thought it would be cool for the youth to hear from an older adult and a younger, more relatable adult, at the same time. Shortly after Marcus accepted Madonna’s invitation to speak with her at the keynote event, he went on vacation but had no return date. He was not fully aware of how much speech preparation would be needed so he was quite confused by Madonna’s incessant texts requesting the date of his return. Their mutual interest in running had brought them together. Marcus, the 2020 Olympic Track Team hopeful athlete had become Madonna’s much needed track coach after the loss of her husband. It was her turn to help him take public speaking seriously.

Once Marcus returned from vacation and after a week of intense practicing Madonna scheduled visits to three Toastmasters clubs – Reach Your Summit, Evergreen 333 Express and Gig Harbor. She knew practicing before the live audiences would give them valuable experience and feedback. It was late September 2019 when a club officer told the Gig Harbor Toastmasters board members that Madonna had approached her asking if she, along with her co-speaker Marcus Chambers, could come to the club to practice a keynote speech. The club agreed to host their practice. 

And that is precisely where we pick up the next person in the back story.

Rumi was in attendance at the Gig Harbor club meeting when Madonna and Marcus practiced. She felt it was unique to hear the same message from two speakers in two different generations. Madonna’s speech was pretty polished but while Marcus’ speech was very authentic it had some room for improvement. Both speeches were inspirational and attendants were all impressed. In fact, before they came, she requested their bios, and promoted their visit through the club’s Facebook page. Rumi got fascinated by their accomplishments as athletes. Until a couple years ago, she observed her son practice cross country running on the high school varsity team. She could sense similarities both excellent athletes and Toastmasters possess. And she made another post about the viewpoint in the club’s FB page. This post inspired Madonna to approach the Toastmaster Magazine.  When they came, their speeches were very inspirational, not betraying Rumi’s expectation. 

Rumi was born and raised in Japan where she met her husband and they moved to America where she became a translator. When she was a small girl, she was very curious and wanted to share what she discovered with others eagerly. Rumi has not changed and as an adult, her curiosity (which also leads to openness) to seek truths, and authentic information has contributed to her professional or personal PR projects.

Rumi has organized a dozen benefit concerts, raising $40,000, for the 2011 Japan earthquake and nuclear disaster survivors and various local causes around Puget Sound. She was the founding member of two excellent Japanese choirs. Rumi’s 20-year-old son Arthur works part-time as a vocalist/violinist. They annually travel hundreds of miles throughout Washington state to facilitate Arthur’s performances. Rumi does all his public relations and books all his performance appearances.

In the meantime, the big day had arrived! It was keynote time! Madonna reached out to the next teammate Marvin and asked him to video the speech.

The keynote speech promised to deliver both a positive and impactful message. Those are exactly the kind of presentations Marvin likes to record. Although he’s been surprised that videography has become his passion, he has accumulated and become a skillful user of all manner of supplemental video equipment. His first Toastmasters video venture was creating a New Member Orientation video for his club. After that he branched out and began to video different District 32 events. He even recorded Madonna’s training workshop at the Toastmasters 2019, District 32, Spring Conference that was held in Alaska last year. You can find him videoing many Toastmasters events. No wonder then that Madonna reached out to him to record the speech. 

However, videoing the keynote speech had its challenges. For instance, he was asked to respect the privacy of those attending the event by not capturing them on camera. He used precise camera angles and editing skills to pull it all together. Overcoming challenges is not new to Marvin. Be amazed to learn that Marvin has stuttered since childhood. Then a public speaking class he took while in college became motivational on two fronts. He learned techniques to overcome stuttering and his classmates were encouraged to work harder to overcome their public speaking struggles. His accounting teacher suggested Toastmasters to him. Marvin currently serves as the Leader of the Tacoma Chapter for the National Stuttering Association and as their NW Regional Chapter Coordinator too.

Once the story pitch was submitted to Toastmasters and accepted, much had to be accomplished very quickly. Toastmasters had submission deadlines. 

And that is where Teresa comes into the backstory. Madonna needed to send a draft of her story points and photos Marvin supplied of her and Marcus to the Toastmasters magazine editors. And the deadline loomed! Rumi helped edit the story material, but as the article progressed through the series of submission hoops, she felt she had limitations because English is not her native tongue. She sensed Madonna needed an excellent and dedicated writer like Teresa who could help edit the magazine story content to be submitted. Very fortunately Teresa accepted the request and became the driving force to move the project ahead. Teresa spent time polishing the submission.  

Teresa is a retired Semi-Truck driver with almost 30 years and a couple million miles of professional driving experience. Having moved to a sleepy little town in Idaho after she and her husband recently retired, she has a lot more time on her hands. Her mom always wanted to write a book, but not her, she doesn’t have a “book length” attention span. She does like to write short, life experience stories though sharing many of them with family and friends, at women’s retreats, club meetings and in Toastmaster contests. There are many Toastmasters who when they hear the words “Port-o-Potty” think of Teresa.

Madonna and Marcus’ story that you’ll read in the Toastmasters International Magazine started out as an inspirational keynote speech and has since been referred to as the “Tag Team” speech. The speech was indeed the success Pastor Banks had hoped for when he reached out to Madonna with genuine pride and appreciation for her professional and track accomplishments. He knew the youth would respond to the unique presentation Madonna was sure to provide. 

The backstory that supported the magazine story is the story of an idea and successful teamwork. Where do you get an idea and team? Sometimes an idea come from mingling with unfamiliar people. Well, Madonna stepped out of her home club and visited different clubs to practice a keynote speech. That is how she met Rumi. Rumi shared a thought about similarity between Toastmasters and athletes. This sparked Madonna’s interest in pursuing the Toastmaster Magazine project. Then, the team was gradually formed with a generous supply of enthusiastic support from Teresa, Rumi’s fellow Toastmaster and Marvin, Madonna’s fellow Toastmaster. This is a team of passion from Madonna, curiosity from Rumi, dedication from Teresa and Marvin and openness from Marcus. We encourage you to meet new people to get an idea. You would never know if a team will be formed to make your vision to fruition. The desired outcome could be bigger and better than imagined!

Would you have imagined someone with a long resume in the fashion industry, a 2020 Olympic hopeful (who would become a Toastmaster), an immigrant with PR spirit, along with a singularly surprised videographer and a retired truck driver could team up to generate an article that would be read worldwide? Rumi is probably the one among us who knew it could happen. 

Ideas. It all began with ideas. What idea have you been thinking about lately? 

Say yes to yourself. And if it is bigger than yourself, and most ideas are … find your team!