We must accept life for what it actually is – a challenge to our quality without which we should never know of what stuff we are made, or grow to our full stature. – Robert Louis Stevenson

I find this quote of Robert Louis Stevenson very thought provoking and this has inspired me to know of Toastmaster friends who have faced and overcome challenges and obstacles in their Toastmaster journey.

I would love to share the story of DTM Susan Ellsworth – who lives in Adelphi Maryland about facing three major challenges in 2007-2008, when she served as the District 36 Public Relations Officer.  Here is the story in her own words:

“I gave my first Icebreaker on May 14, 1981 at the Washtenaw Toastmasters Club #3054 in Michigan (USA), moved from Ann Arbor to Maryland in 1984 and credited the Crown of Laurel Toastmasters club with my first DTM on December 23, 1987. I remained with the club through mid 1989, when I had to take a long leave of absence to care for my ailing parents. I returned to Toastmasters in 2005 and have served in various club offices. I am currently working on my second DTM.

In 2007-2008, I served as the District 36 Public Relations Officer. That year, I faced three difficult challenges.

The first was the death of a dear Toastmaster friend who had done so much for Toastmasters that he had received a special award from Toastmasters International. As the District 36 Public Relations Officer, I had to speak to our District Executive Committee about arrangements for his funeral, since it was scheduled for later that day and many of us would attend.

The second challenge of that year was the September 2007 resignation of our District 36 webmaster. Having accepted a role as an Area Governor, he discovered that he could not manage both jobs. Although I had some experience with some website technologies, I was completely unprepared to support the District 36 website and serve as Public Relations Officer. The website at the time had been supported with software so old that the software manufacturer had gone out of business. Also, the software used to support the website was only on one person’s local computer. I had to learn very quickly how to use a different software on my computer to support that website.

That experience led to the third challenge, which became a life lesson in patience. I knew that expecting untrained members to own and learn to use special software to support a District website was not unrealistic. So I assembled an action team to complete a High Performance Leadership Project to identify and recommend a Content Management System with all the easy-to-use Internet tools already on line. By May 2008, my team presented our recommendation to the outgoing District 36 Governor, the incoming District 36 Governor and an audience of about 50 other people.

My hope was that the recommendation would be implemented in the 2008-2009 year. When that did not happen, I felt terrible. I felt that our recommendation had been totally disregarded. However, by May 2009 a new incoming District Governor had realized the truth and value of our recommendation. Our recommendation was implemented in June 2009, and now the same website content management system is still being used in District 36.

I am grateful not only for the good times and good friends around the globe but also for the challenges I have faced through Toastmasters. Both have taught me about life in general.”

I am sure we all will learn from these challenges faced by DTM Susan Ellsworth. Thanks a lot for sharing your story. And… finally a beautiful quote to conclude my post from Martin Luther King Jr – The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.


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