I stood at the front of the room ready to start my speech. Then I paused. “No. No!”, I thought! “Excuse me, may I have just a minute”, I asked the judges. “I’ll be right back”, I said, rushing from the room without waiting for an answer. I went out in the hall and found her. I grabbed her hand. “Come on”, I said. “Come now. I’m ready to start.” “I don’t want to make you nervous”, she said. “No. It’s OK. I want you to be there.” We hurried back into the room; I walked to the front, took a deep breathe, and started.
I don’t remember the actual question I was supposed to address, but the speech had something to do with Spain. It was my last extemporaneous speech* at my last regular season high school forensics competition, and my mother had driven from Urbana, Ohio to Wright State University in Dayton to surprise me. She wanted to hear me speak.
For four years she had watched me leave on Saturday mornings and some holidays to compete in forensics tournaments around the state and in neighboring states. This was the first time she had come to one of my tournaments. Parents rarely did. No one typically watched these rounds of competition, just the participants and the judges. This was the first opportunity she had to hear me speak. Because it was so unexpected, I was apprehensive at first. I was surprised she was there and honestly thrown a little bit off balance.
I had made the final round of girls extemporaneous speaking**. I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to do my best with her in the room. I might be distracted, unable to concentrate. But as I stood up there to begin my speech, I knew this was an opportunity that wouldn’t come again. I knew I had to let my mother hear me speak. I wanted my mother to hear me speak.
As I began my speech, I smiled at my mom. Then confidently and with clarity I spoke for 5 to 7 minutes on whatever the question was about Spain. I knew my material. I knew the argument I wanted to make. The words flowed out of me easily. I was good. I was satisfied. My mother got to see a reasonable representation of what I had been doing all these Saturdays for all these years. I was so happy she was there.
I went on to win that tournament. My mom got to see that as well. I competed in Little and Big Districts and placed 2nd in the State that year, but in many ways, the most important speech I gave my entire high school career was the one on Spain in front of my mother.
* Extemporaneous speaking involved preparing a 5-7 minute speech with personal research in 30 minutes on a current events related topic, typically around public policy, global issues, or politics.
** There were separate categories for girls and boys in extemporaneous speaking at that time.