Thank you, Fr. Farrell.
Speeches often begin with a statement of gratitude to persons responsible for bringing him or her to the stage.
The people responsible for bringing me forth as a presenter and a speaker are my dad, Martin Weir, and Fr. John F. Farrell, the now-deceased pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church in Emmett, Michigan.
Dad enrolled me in a Gabriel Richard public speaking course in our hamlet of Emmett when I was a junior in high school. The others in the course were fathers and mothers of my boyhood friends. I was the only youth, but Dad had the foresight to know that the experience would be good for me.
We met weekly for several weeks and learned techniques to better present our messages and feel more confident doing so.
At the end of the course, the best among us would represent our group in a statewide speakers competition in Detroit. An alternate would also be recognized as a back-up presenter in case the best one could not attend.
The winner among our group was a woman who, indeed, did have the gift of gab. She was a fiery redhead with a vivid imagination who could deliver her stories with verve. I was chosen as the Gabriel Richard alternate. Yeah, the teenage kid came in second.
Thank you, Dad.
Maybe I had an advantage due to the Catholic liturgy of the day. By the time of this course, I had already made dozens of appearances in front of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel congregation as a reader of epistles.
I, as well as most of the other lads in the parish, had been an altar boy since the third grade. The Mass was spoken in Latin in the early 1960s, and our pastor, Fr. Farrell, had taught us to respond to the priest’s intonations in that ancient language. A few years later, Fr. Farrell selected me and a few other youths to be readers.
Thank you, Fr. Farrell.
Unlike today, when readers of the epistles and gospels are generally adults of either gender, all of those chosen then were boys. Perhaps if the men of our parish had had practice reading epistles in front of a few hundred people–as I and my young friends had–one of them would have been selected as the alternate instead of me.
But because of those early-life experiences, I had a leg up and the thought of glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, has never entered my consciousness.
Since my youth, I have delivered hundreds of presentations that range from spiritual messages in churches to international travelogues in front of public audiences. I’ve facilitated dozens of training sessions, seminars, and workshops on communication, listening, and writing skills.
But the most significant speech I’ve ever delivered was spoken to the Emmett Lions Club–on behalf of my dad.
That special occasion occurred in 2000. The club had been in existence for nearly 50 years, and Dad, at 85, was the only founding member still alive. Several in the club were farmers and skilled laborers, so they had built their new clubhouse themselves.
Their debt for construction costs was down to less than $1,000 when Dad decided that he would write a check to pay off the remaining balance–a gift back to the organization from which he had gained much pleasure and enjoyment for so many years.
Dad had Parkinson’s at that time. He had tremors in his right hand and, later, his gait would falter greatly, but the malady had affected his face and vocal cords more than any other part of his body. He perpetually wore that dour Parkinsonian mask. But he so wanted to address his colleagues when he presented the check.
We worked on his message together, a task that required several hours because of his faltering voice. Yet, he managed, as I keystroked what he wanted to say. Then I printed out a single sheet of paper with the few words. He practiced, and he actually did quite well–at home.
But in front of the audience, that dreaded glossophobia entered the scene. His hand shook. His body quivered. And his voice failed to emerge. The Lions waited silently and patiently as he started and stammered and started and stammered again and again.
Finally, he looked toward me and poised the paper that contained his speech in my direction. His eyes conveyed a simple, loving request: “Help me.”
I stepped forward and took his hand as well as the paper. “What Dad wants to say …,” I began–and then delivered the most important speech of my life.
Dad passed from this life in May 2003. In the fall of that year, the Emmett Lions Club dedicated their annual Goodfellows Newspaper, their major fundraiser read throughout the community, to Lion Marty Weir. They asked me to write the feature article.
That story, “The Weirs in Emmett,” is a foundational piece in my memoir, Dad, a diary of caring and questioning, which is about our time together in the waning years of his life. The stories, poetry, and journals are both personal and universal, a message for adult children caring for their elders and for elders receiving that care.
Read more about Dad, a diary of caring and questioning.
To schedule a presentation for your group, contact me.
Here are a few examples categorized as travelogues, inspirational/motivational, and beneficial for strengthening human relationships.
entertaining, informative, photos,
60 to 90 minutes
Australia and UPLIFT Festival
Australia’s eastern shoreline extends from Cape Tribulation in the tropical north to Tasmania in the near-Arctic south. Points of high interest include Sydney, the Gold Coast, Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef, expansive beaches, and rainforests.
Your audience will experience all of these plus stories of people–indigenous Aborigines, laid-back Aussies of English descent, and European ex-patriots–in the “land down under.”
The word “crossings” here refers to sea voyages of great distances. In “Great Crossings,” your audience will experience 16 days across the Atlantic aboard the world’s largest square-rigged tall ship, a tall ships regatta on the Aegean and Black seas, and a ride aboard a commercial freighter on the Baltic Sea.
This is one of my favorite and most requested shows.
20 to 30 minutes for church services
Chariots of Nonviolence:
Christ, Gandhi, King, Us
Jesus Christ, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., in their unique ways, followed a path of nonviolent resistance to injustice. This presentation examines the message of each of these great individuals and serves as an inspiration for our own journeys toward peace and justice.
Common Threads & Golden Strand
While some religions profess to be the only path to salvation, this presentation offers an alternative view. It explores the common threads that run through the tapestry of beliefs of various faith groups, leading audiences to realize that a Universal Energy is the Golden Strand that links all persons and souls to Divine Eternal Love.
The Joseph Strategy
The story of Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, in the Old Testament conveys a strategy for resource conservation that is as necessary today as it was in ancient times. Like Joseph, a boy sold into slavery who rose to high esteem in Egypt, the solutions of ecological and economic preservation will likely not rest in the minds of the powerful elite but in the hands of common laborers.
various lengths, photos and video
How Could So Many Murder So Many?
This highly provocative program about The Holocaust is based on my experience at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, Germany. With awesome images and a gut-gripping video, it requires 60 minutes of presentation time and has, with every showing so far, elicited much discussion during and afterward.
Peace, Justice, Care of Earth
This informative presentation provides a greater understanding of the integral relationship between true inner peace (not just the absence of conflict), social justice as an equitable sharing of all resources, and Earth care. Based on the vision of Earth Day founder, John McConnell, I can deliver this beneficial message in 20 minutes for church services or up to 90 minutes for keynote events.
People Helping People
This presentation originated with my “Candle Lighter” blogs, which is about people who apply the altruistic concept, “It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.” Set in Kolkata, India, “People Helping People” will introduce you to those who are doing what they can–in little or big ways–to help disadvantaged persons experience a better life.
India: Life among the People
While on a writing assignment in Kolkata, India, I was privileged to live in a basti (slum) and interact with the adults and children who reside there. This presentation reveals their lives of physical hardship as well as their ingenuity, resilience and charm.
India’s Religious Diversity
Religious diversity within the Western world is primarily defined by sects within the Christian tradition. In India, religious diversity manifests in symbiotic respect among Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and Jains who share and participate in each other’s religious celebrations and holidays.
Rebuilding Religious Russia
During Russia’s Communist Era, numerous churches were either destroyed, damaged, or diverted into sectarian use. Then, after the fall of Communism, the Russian people began to restore and rebuild many of these relics to their previous glory, preserving the original designs. This is a story about some of those churches.
Evolution of Forgiveness
The Old Testament presents God as a vengeful entity who governs with plagues and pestilence. In the New Testament, Christ teaches the power of love. This presentation examines how the concept of forgiveness has evolved from primitive perspectives of a wrathful God to a loving Universal Energy who works with us to co-create new insights to further advance humanity’s ever-expanding consciousness.
Intentions and Manifestations
If we want to know what we’ve been desiring, we need only to look at what we have now. Then we can fully realize that every physical aspect of our life is a manifestation of our intentions. This presentation invites us to examine all of the opportunities, choices, thoughts, decisions, and actions we have made that have taken us from previous conditions to our current situations.
Three Characteristics of Patience
Drawing on the teachings of Buddhism, as espoused by the ancient Indian saint Shantideva as well as His Holiness the current Dalai Lama, this presentation teaches us how to utilize our innate connection with our Higher Power in order to be tolerant of pain and hardships, tolerant regarding nature, and tolerant of injuries by others.
Good Is Coming from This
Faced with diagnosis of a major medical condition, any one of use might respond with despair or with resilience. This presentation, based on my encounter with a brain tumor, is an inspiration to help others view personal maladies in a positive light. I can deliver this presentation in 20 minutes for church services or up to 90 minutes with Q&A for keynote events.
Peace Within on the Bell Curve of Life
Each of us enters life totally dependent on others. If we live long enough, we will leave life dependent on others. This reality need not bring worry but peace for both ailing/dying individuals as well as their caregivers. With excerpts from ancient philosophies as well as personal experience while caring for my elderly father, this presentation evokes powerful emotion and insight regarding the care of our elders in modern times.
Power of Words
Whether thought, spoken or printed, words carry a vibrational energy, a connotation of intention and meaning. We can fall into a pattern of using words, either when speaking to ourselves or others, that can be harmful to our health and detrimental to our relationships. In this presentation, I raise awareness of word subtleties. By being better attuned to our words, we can employ words that improve our thinking, feeling, attitudes, actions and lives.