Friday, September 6, 2013

Toastmaster's speech: A tribute to my dad by Ray (January 2011)

A Tribute to My Father -- Toastmaster speech

by Ray Richardson on Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 6:44pm
Our Friend the Cookie Monster one day went to the fair-
Thought he'd like to take some rides, and do some fun things there.
A barker, calling loud and clear, said, "Test your strength, and tell
If you can wield this hammer well enough to ring the bell.
"The man who's strong enough will win a prize, and get a thrill --
So pay your money, get in line, and show your strength and skill."
Old Cookie Monster flexed his arm, said, "This will be a breeze!
I'll ring the bell and win the prize-- just watch me if you please!"
He stepped up, took the hammer, and struck a mighty blow--
But not enough to ring the bell! He turned around to go.
"What was the prize?" he queried, saddened that he'd failed.
"Oh, it was just a cookie," the attendant said and smiled.
"A cookie?!" You could see old Cookie Monster set on fire!
For, cookies more than anything are his burning desire!!!
He grabbed again the hammer, and with gross, unearthly power,
Shattered the air with such a blow, the bell crashed from its tower!
Well, you know this already, what happened with the prize--
Old Cookie Monster had it downed in a wink, as you'd surmise.
Now, if you'd be successful, a coveted prize to win,
You've got to set a goal, then form that great desire within.
For that enthusiasm will carry far beyond
The ordinary thought or wish-- it'll be a magic wand,
And bring within your reach a prize you though you'd never acquire--
Just as with Cookie Monster, desire can light your fire!!
This poem is titled "Burning Desire" and was written by my father.  I chose to start this tribute to my father with this poem because it's one of literally hundreds of poems that he wrote, each one that although entertaining, actually taught important lessons of life.  Through his poems, he taught his children moral values such how to treat each other with respect, how to be your best self, and how to set goals.  He made a little book from some of the best poems that he titled appropriately "Life's Little Lessons".
But my father didn't just talk the talk; he also walked the walk.  He was a dentist known for hard work and excellence in his work.  He would do free dental work for many who were in need.  He was a mild-mannered man who was always in control of his emotions.  One time when another man angrily said something very offensive to him, he chose not to lash back or respond visibly but instead respectfully listened to what the man had to say.  This experience and others like it taught me as much as any written words of a poem.
He was (and still is) a great man, but to fully understand him you would need to understand the most important person in his life: his wife, my mother.  In contrast to his mild manner, my mother is more vocal and energetic.  You may wonder how such opposite personalities would be able to get along so well.  But truthfully they were perfect for each other, drawing on each other's strengths to be most effective.  For example, mom would be the driving force day-to-day urging me to do my best at school, but dad was right there backing her up in his quiet way and being a good example of what I could become.  Think of them as the perfect personification of tactical and strategic action.
Sometimes people who get Alzheimer's become belligerent and difficult to work with.  You become what you really are on the inside.  In fact, now is when my dad's inner spirit shines the brightest.  As you would expect, he is the nicest, kindest person, even now as he suffers with advanced Alzheimers.
In closing, I am grateful for my father's constant and ongoing example to me.  I am who I am today because of him.  He may not remember me anymore, but man, I sure remember him and am grateful for all his "Life's Little Lessons".  Thanks Dad!

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