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Letter: Hear clearly stated what it means to be an American

To the editor:

Toastmasters is known for helping folks improve themselves through public speaking, listening and critical thinking skills. During a meeting, your presentation's content is not evaluated, but how you present your idea. Body language, getting to the point and vocal variety to name a few. Quite different from the annual Great American Experiment speech contest where participants are judged for their content, originality and sincerity (although dramatic pauses and gestures don't hurt).

Each year the topic is the same: "What it Means to Be an American." An idea which takes new meaning with each competitor.

This year's contest was another success, kicked off by Mayor Sean Dowse with a speech of his own, "The Power of the Spoken Word." With an audience age group ranging from 8 to, well, much older, Dowse couldn't have delivered more appropriate words. As too did the contestants:

Nhien Chauo immigrated to America when he was 12 years old. After realizing his success from hard work and studies, he traveled back to Vietnam where he was born. Meeting with a childhood friend who entered the exact same field he did, Nhien took pause after comparing their incomes. Simply staggering. This led to his realization, it is just as important to understand "What it Means NOT to Be an American" — a fascinating story filled with humor winning him first place.

Lorna Ross told a tale of fun, independence and self-expression. Then quickly drove home the importance of personal responsibility — not only in our actions and deeds, but in our words. This easily place Lorna in second place.

Hallie Roschen expressed a refreshing take on being involved. There the audience sat as this eighth-grader explained how to become a better American by challenging to improving yourselves. The greater point made was to volunteer your time and talents. Equally importantly, challenging others to do the same. By challenging herself to enter this contest, Hallie became the proud precipitant of third place.

Vickie Froehlich deserves special mention for an outstanding presentation. With her speech "Out of the Box," Vickie employed a clever prop, a hand full of canyons. No matter what color we are, we are all cut from the same cloth. Driving home the importance of selfless acts alone made her five-minute presentation worth everyone time of attendance.

If you haven't done so yet, please mark your calendar for Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, as the Hiawatha Valley Toastmasters presents the eighth annual Great American Experiment speech contest.

Ernie Stone

Red Wing

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