Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Fragility of Life

Delivered on 6th July 2006, this speech was my inaugural presidential opening address, which marked my first chapter meeting as President of Tampines Changkat Toastmasters Club.
Inaugural Presidential Opening Address
By Nathaniel Koh Kim Kui
President, Tampines Changkat Toastmasters Club
6th July 2006, thursday

At the start of this meeting, we had a moment’s silence to remember the passing of a former member of our club, Martin Steiner. He was murdered in Dubai a couple of weeks back, and his body was found a few days ago. He leaves behind his wife, Christina, and his daughter.

This incident caused me to reflect upon the fragility of life.

I know that this topic is very peculiar to an inaugural presidential address because such addresses usually paint a bright and beautiful picture of our environment. But I feel that this topic is close to my heart and I believe that it is close to yours as well.

It is close my heart because I have experienced the fragility of life a few times before. Let me share with you a couple of incidents.

I was a premature baby. I was one month premature. The doctors had to take me out early because they found water in my lungs. And unlike the other babies who could go home after a few weeks, I had to remain in the hospital for the next half-a-year.

I had tubes inserted into my nose to drain the water out of my lungs slowly and carefully for the next half year. And I was just this small.

If the doctors did not discover the water in my lungs, I would have drowned. And I would have died even before I was alive.

In 1999, my father passed on. He was just 49 years old. He had a heart attack in the office. He may have had diabetes and high blood pressure, but he had no history of heart problems, nor were there signs of an impending heart attack. It was very sudden.

It came just two weeks before my ‘O’ Level exams. But his death affected my mother the most. They were married for over 20 years. I would hear her cry every night in her bedroom.

But through this circumstance came the passion, perseverance and persistence to carry on with our lives. I took the ‘O’ Level exams two weeks later, and I passed. Soon, my mother picked herself up and moved on .

Those are just two personal incidents of mine which I have only skimmed the surface of. I have more to share, and I believe that you have yours to share as well.

As each of us look back in our lives, there would be incidents and circumstances that push the limits of our patience, but which reflect the passion, perseverance and pure persistence to push forward in our lives.

How about in Toastmasters? Can we find passion, perseverance, and pure persistence in the movement?

Many of you may know that I began my journey in Toastmasters as a Co-Curricular Activity in Temasek Polytechnic. That was in the year 2000. In that year, I delivered only two projects. There was no push, there was no motivation.

But around May of 2001, at the end of the term after the exam, I made a call that changed my life. I called a friend of mine who was also member in the club. I asked him, “How come so long never have chapter meeting? When’s the next chapter meeting?” And he replied, “Nat, don’t you know that the poly asked the club to close down?”

I had no idea. I was not in the Executive Committee. But over the next few days and weeks, I played a small part in the team to rescue the club from the clutches of closure. On my own accord, I compiled a 29-page report on why the club should not be closed down. Because I was still inexperienced at the time, most of the 29 pages were copied from the Toastmasters website.

I still do not know whether or not the report had any effect, but it doesn’t matter to me, all I needed to know was whether or not the club survived. And to great relief, it did. And that changed my life forever.

Because soon after, I was made the Vice-President Education. That began my habit of visiting clubs almost every day. I would go out, shake hands, meet people, deliver my projects, do some evaluations, take up some appointments, and improve myself so that my club could improve as well. That was five years ago.

If not for that phone call, I would not have known that the club was on the verge of closure. If not for the passion and perseverance of the Executive Committee at that time, there would be no more Temasek Polytechnic Toastmasters Club. I would be club-less and my life would have taken a different direction.

What about Tampines Changkat Toastmasters Club?

If you look at the top of your programme sheet, you can see that our club number is 9165. And that we were chartered on 14th January 1993.

But on 14th January 1993, Tampines Changkat Toastmasters Club did not exist. On that date, club number 9165 existed, not Tampines Changkat.

Because on 14th January 1993, club number 9165 was chartered as the NCOC Toastmasters Club. We were under the auspices of the People’s Association. The charter members of that club who are still with us today are Michael, Cheng Lee and Edward.

But a few years later, the People’s Association no longer saw a need to have a Toastmasters Club. And so, the NCOC Toastmasters Club was dissolved. But because of the passion, perseverance, and persistence of the charter members, the spirit of Toastmasters lived on. Soon, club number 9165 found a new home in Tampines East Community Club. And club number 9165 was then called Tampines East Toastmasters Club.

After a few years, the Tampines East CC closed us down, under what circumstance I do not know. But again, because of the passion, perseverance, and persistence of its members, the spirit of Toastmasters found a new home in Tampines Central Community Club. And club number 9165 became Tampines Central Toastmasters Club.

Again, after a few years, under what circumstance I do not know, Tampines Central Toastmasters Club was asked to move out. But again, because of the passion, perseverance, and persistence of its members, the spirit of Toastmasters found a new home. And club number 9165 became Tampines Changkat Toastmasters Club. And that is where we are today.

Passion, perseverance, and persistence have guide us throughout these years.

I hope that history does not repeat itself. Because our past should not be an indication of our future. But if it is. I hope that we here today will have the passion, perseverance, and persistence to carry on the spirit of Toastmasters wherever we go.

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