290 | Speech! Speech!

August 11, 2013
Sunday, 12:30 p.m.
Letter #290: Speech! Speech!


Dear Family,

This last Friday marked the graduation day of our second Public Speaking class that the Business class has put on for over a year now. My ex-cellie, Thomas, put much of the curriculum portion together, and we modeled the format of the class after the ToastMasters International, a public speaking organization.

Each 1½ hour weekly class provided an opportunity for the participants to take on certain roles to present portions of the class: Master of Ceremonies (ToastMaster), Word of the Day, Hot Seat, General Evaluator, etc. Additionally, each member was required to give a speech from 10 unique categories to graduate. This semester, a total of 13 guys qualified to graduate the class.

Last month, our Business class board met with a group of incredible volunteers from the U/U (Universalist / Unitarian) church in nearby Tucson. They come here once a month to hold services, which my ex-cellie Tom facilitated. They have been extremely kind and generous with their time and energy, and they have a heart to assist inmates prepare for parole and life beyond prison. As such, they make the perfect partnership with our very purposeful venture of self-education.

This sweet group of nearly a dozen retired and semi-retired professionals has provided us with materials and is sponsoring a pizza party for the Public Speaking class that will be held soon. Additionally, for our graduating classes, they provided professional certificates signed by members of their organization—a nice addition to our main files, evidence that we’ve taken active steps towards meaningful rehabilitation.

Beginning this semester, the Business class board is launching a Writer’s Workshop class on creative writing, which the U/U volunteers (several with a collegiate literature background) will take an active role in coaching once a month after their scheduled service.

So, it was an incredible honor to have such a group at this latest graduation. I’m proud of the guys in my class, and it was nice for them to be able to show off their poise and grace in public speaking in front of the volunteers.

My Community Choir’s quartet sang a few songs with our always faithful volunteer, Sister Peggy, including Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” the same arrangement I’ve sung for years with my brothers. Everyone loved it.

Though the institution dropped the ball and didn’t coordinate the pizza party with our guests there, Sister Peggy brought cookies for everyone, so it at least seemed like a party.

Each graduate accepted his certificate from the young man I appointed to facilitate the class after Tom went home, Alphanzo. He is doing a great job and quickly picking up the responsibilities of the class. Each guy gave a brief speech accepting their certificates, thanking those of us who made it possible.

The warden stopped by at the back and got to hear the final two speeches before I presented Alphanzo with his own certificate. I was then able to publicly thank the warden for providing a place for us to hold the four classes a week, air conditioned and free of distraction. I thanked him for modeling good leadership by setting a tone of rehabilitation at the prison, and I recapped the fact that our classes are entering their fourth semester, with no disciplinary write-ups or incidents and dozens of graduates.

He then said a few words, encouraging all of us in what we’re doing. Though he’s seen me perform at over a dozen GED graduations, it was great to finally have him see some of what else I’m doing here, for which I thank the Lord.