Years later Joan joined a Toastmasters group in Boulder, Colorado, in an effort to gain more poise and confidence. I was delighted to find a speech she wrote for one of the meetings. I'll share it in two posts, as in the first, lengthier part she talks about her junior high and high school years.
"Up and Over the Mountain."
Madam Toastmistress, members and guests. You will be pleased to learn that you do not have a rank novice before you tonight. Ah, no! You have before you the battle-scarred veteran of ONE speech. That experience almost cured me of opening my mouth in public for the next twelve years.
Let me take you now westward, up and over the mountains to the place I delivered that speech, and some of the events leading up to it. The setting is... oh, let me describe the setting. You drop off a mountaintop into the loveliest little valley this side of paradise. A valley that's like green velvet in the summertime, green velvet with a silver ribbon of river winding through it. A valley that is a sparkling, white fairyland in the winter. The town in this valley is small and sheltered. No matter which direction you look, you see mountains. It was in this safe, cloistered town that I was born and raised—Steamboat Spring, Colorado, Or, as we natives and the Chamber of Commerce proudly proclaim—Ski Town, USA.
Now, I'm going to be honest with you. Despite what you may have heard to the contrary, not every child growing up in Steamboat learns to ski well at the age of 5. I did not learn to ski well at the age of 5…or…10…or 20. However, that's not reflection on the abundant snow, wonderful slopes or general "ski atmosphere"…I'm simply uncoordinated, looks like I always will be. I still love to ski and do it at every opportunity, but I still ski badly. I still barely make it down the intermediate slopes, still fall off the tow, etc.
At any rate, it was lots of fun wearing ski pants and sweaters to school all winter and getting out of school to make snow statues for carnivals, and I loved every minute of it.
When I was in junior high school, I was selected as one of two delegates to attend Girls State, which was held at Colorado Woman's College in Denver. Her I was fascinated by the study and actual practice of our system of government. My most lasting impression, however, was the incredible realization that there was another world outside my sheltered mountain valley.
Later that same year I visited my future home, Boulder, when I attended Band Day. You know, I think it would be very dramatic at this point to say that I fell in love with Boulder at first sight. However, the truth of the matter is I became so hopelessly lost on campus, that I spent my entire time trying here trying to find the Stadium. I finally made it for the last quarter of the football game and the boarding of the bus for home. You see, I was too shy to ask anyone for directions and was too confused to understand them if I had. See how badly I need Toastmistress training?
My next sojourn into the "outside" was a glamorous one. My parents gave me a trip to California to visit my favorite aunt, who is a fashion model in Hollywood. I went to a real nightclub and met several movie stars. I was quite impressed. However, the best thing about the trip was the prestige I gained…not so much with my peers back at school, but later when my children learned that I shook hands with the star of Wells Fargo and actually talked at length with "Temple Houston." Made me quite a heroine at my house for a while.
I returned from California at the end of Spring Vacation and soon found graduation approaching. That brings me to that first speech I mentioned earlier…the valedictory address, delivered with shaking knees and tremulous voice in the High School Gym.