We were delighted to welcome five guests. Thanks to Celia, Sharon, Thomas, Linda, and Vance them for coming – and to Angelique, Chihiro, and Nelum who invited them.

The theme of the night was freedom, with a thought-provoking quotation: “There are two freedoms – the false, where one is free to do what one likes; and the true, where one is free to do what one ought,” Kingsley. Danielle, Toastmaster for the evening, looked forward to our increasing freedom as the restrictions lift, but she added a salutary reminder that we need to be conscientious and remain vigilant as we enjoy ourselves.

Silvia’s toast to freedom reminded us that only in 1965 did France allow women to have a bank account and work without their husbands’ permission, that even now 30% more bank assets are owned by men, and that women remain in the minority as business leaders. With this in mind, we toasted the idea freedom.

Laura’s joke reflected the theme, with a man in a closed and silent monastery who is restricted to two words each decade: I’m hungry, I’m cold, wanna leave!

Nelum’s excellent table topics encouraged participants to dig deeper into the meaning of freedom. Martin lauded the freedom to speak and the freedom to choose how he would react to frustrations such as closed restaurants. Oana presented a visualization of freedom in the form of the sun, giving heat, light, and life, without which we would be nothing. Of all freedoms, Ana appreciated the freedom to travel: she is the first in her family to enjoy this, as her native Romania was closed before joining the EU in 2007. Tricia explored the idea of how we all make our own personal prisons and how we can break free. Jessica acknowledged the truth of Einstein’s theory that freedom is only possible by constant struggling, arguing that we need to decide what we really want to do and to achieve, and that the search for meaning is indeed a constant struggle. Finally Chihiro reflected on her own most liberating travel, coming to France for a new cultural experience including the possibility of equal status for women.

Paula presented a very professional Icebreaker and was able to cram a good deal of information into a short time limit (she loves talking, wine, travel, sightseeing, food, running and yoga; she works in water technology; her passion is ecology). She covered a range of styles including factual-expository, humor, narrative and persuasive appeal, and her speech was excellently organized, building up to a strong conclusion with a question that challenged the audience: What about you? Going forwards, Siobhan recommended she consider moving further from the camera – so she could use some gestures – and acting out her stories more.

Jan’s message was provocative. The opening hook was an attention-catcher:  the fine line that separates an exciting adventure from rape is consent. This is true, too, he argued, of our internet experience. While we ‘consent’ to the cookies as we browse, we do this without understanding what it is that we are permitting. “Consent’ quickly becomes abuse as our internet experience is tracked and our personal details put up for sale. Cindi, evaluating, opened by praising Jan’s ability to put a speech together at such short notice (he very kindly stood in for someone). She noted his excellent subject choice, a contemporary issue of interest to everybody.  She commended his clear explanation and strong conclusion, which were a real call to action. In recommending future possibilities, she felt that Jan might speak a little slower and articulate more, as Zoom is making audibility difficult. She enjoyed the reference to Biden’s experience but suggested Jan could tell a personal story, as this would engage the audience more.

Evaluating the evening, Suzanne thanked and praised many people and noted our progress in understanding how to deal with technical issues that arise. She drew our attention to the new website, congratulating Oana on her work, and asked that all members check their personal information and update as needed.

Oana, acting as president in Vicki’s absence, thanked people for attending and drew attention to the extra courses offered as Toastmaster International ‘freebies’.

Finally, we said goodbye to our guests. Linda, an aspiring screenwriter, and Vance, retired software developer and musician, had been Zooming in from LA. Sharon, Nelum’s guest, said the evening was fun. Thomas, Chihiro’s guest, appreciated the meeting’s interesting topics. Celia, Angelique’s guest, is looking forward to the next session…

Hope to see her – and everybody – on June 1st !

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