A toast to Zim’s public speaking champion -Newsday Zimbabwe
On August 20, through a motivational speech titled Ndini, Cyril Junior Dim won the Toastmasters World Championship Public Speaking for 2022. This was a remarkable achievement, not least because the competition involved 30,000 participants from 144 countries.
It took great courage for Cyril to share his personal experience in this speech and in the same spirit to speak on behalf of millions of people in similar circumstances. In addition to an excellent style of delivery, the speech was equally sober and satirical.
Cyril, a Zimbabwean, comes on stage and stares at the competition chair for a moment then turns to the audience with his opening remarks. He begins by explaining the meaning of the shona word, “Ndini”, which was the title of the speech. It means: “It’s me.” It’s a story about how he grew up and how he struggled to adopt the native middle name given to him by his Nigerian father, a name the other kids at school made fun of. The name was apparently long and didn’t sound “cool” as he said.
Although he never knew his father, he always asked his mother why he was given this name. He hated it because it made him look different, although his mother explained that it was a special name. As soon as he turned 18, he arranged for the middle name to be removed from all of his documents.
Having traveled to Eastern Europe to further his education, Cyril felt even more different. He explains that he felt like a “fly in milk”. It wasn’t until he met another “fly in the milk” – a Congolese classmate – that the turning point came. Cyril came across his friend’s ID card and, to his surprise, he also had an Aboriginal middle name. His friend was very proud of the name and considered it very special. It was then that he realized it was okay to be different as he reflected on why he had dropped his own name. At that exact moment, he decided he was going to reclaim his name and use it. So he said to himself, “Ndini”, accepting who he was.
The lessons are wide-ranging and aimed at a diverse audience. The speech pointed out that we are all different and that there might be certain aspects of our lives that we may not be comfortable with.
It could be our physical appearance, the family we come from or any other condition. The lesson is to embrace diversity, accept who we are, and in doing so, incorporate ‘Ndini’ into our vocabulary. A popular quote says, “When life gives you lemons, turn them into lemonade.” The very name that Cyril’s classmates made fun of, is the name that he would claim on the world stage and proclaim how beautiful it was.
Peer pressure and the feeling of wanting to be accepted often cause many to go against their beliefs. Cyril’s case is not isolated. It is no wonder that some Zimbabweans who have gone abroad have changed their identities for various reasons. Some are no longer comfortable speaking Shona. A joke was circulating when I was in school that Tiger Woods is actually a Zimbabwean whose original name was Tigere Mapuranga, a Shona name that can be roughly translated as “we live in the wood”. Yes, Cyril’s personal experience resonates with many, and his call was clear: “Be yourself!”
The school years
In my elementary years, we had a student who had eyes that were considered too big, and his classmates nicknamed him “my globe”; referring to bulbs. He was not discouraged. He then represented the school as a goalkeeper and showed he was happy with who he was.
Last, but not least, I had my own personal experience in high school. I had signed up for the inter-house public speaking competition. The first part of the competition involved students making prepared presentations, but it was the second category that proved more difficult. It was called the “Impromptu Speech” category. I struggled with the topic given to me and the only takeaway was the laughter of the students, after making a grammatical error in the presentation.
The laughter was deafening. It was a difficult time. I reached 4th position out of six competitors. The choice was either to quit or turn the lemons into lemonade. I chose the lemonade. I am still active in public speaking and recognize that English will always be my second language and that I am error prone.
I won’t compare myself to Cyril and I may not achieve the title of Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking in my lifetime, but hey, that’s me. Ndini! I am here to inspire others to do their best. Our greatest joy does not come from competition or comparison with others. As Norman Vincent Peale once said, “Competing with each other, trying to improve on current performance is the highest form of competition.
Let’s embrace diversity and appreciate how we were created by the Almighty, Jehovah God.