Toastmasters, which coaches people across the globe to make public speeches, on Monday marked the 88th anniversary of its founding in Orange County.
Ralph C. Smedley founded the organization on Oct. 22, 1924, at a YMCA in Santa Ana, where he was the director. He did so to allow young men to practice their after-dinner speeches in a social environment.
Almost nine decades later, nearly 300,000 men and women are improving their communication and leadership skills using the values and model that Smedley developed, according to the organization, which now has more than 13,500 clubs in 116 countries.
Since its inception, more than four million people have taken part in Toastmasters, which moved its world headquarters to Rancho Santa Margarita in 1990.
"Dr. Smedley laid the framework for the Toastmasters 'learn-by-doing' model," said Daniel Rex, executive director of Toastmasters International. "The organization's expansion in recent years is a tribute to the need for the timeless skills of effective communication and leadership. With 19 consecutive years of membership growth, our clubs continue to thrive globally."
Don Ensch, 86, a longtime Toastmaster member from Ventura, recalled hearing Smedley's speeches as a young man.
"Toastmasters has withstood the test of time because its programs are vital to an individual's personal growth," Ensch said. "Better speaking skills are the most well-known results of Toastmasters membership, but anyone can benefit from becoming a more confident listener, thinker and leader. My Toastmasters experience has opened many doors that otherwise would not have been opened. It's been a wonderful journey."
—City News Service