Tag Archives: keynote

The Missoula CASA Keynote

There are a number of problems associated with being asked to do a keynote speech for a local non-profit. Maybe this is all just me, but the pressure feels very big. Keynotes are supposed to be informative and inspiring and funny. Right? Well, to be perfectly honest, although I love to think of myself as able to be informative, inspiring, and funny, to actually have expectations to be informative, inspiring, and funny is miserable. That might be why, 15 minutes before stepping up to the microphone at the Doubletree banquet room in Missoula, I had a case of the complete BLANK MIND. I seriously had no idea what I had planned to say. Two days before the event I was sure I could memorize my 25 minute speech. Now, I looked at my notebook and words were there, but they seemed stupid and boring and not funny and I couldn’t help but wonder, “Who wrote this crap?” I suppose that’s an example of an unfriendly dissociation.

To top all that off, every speaker who offered introductions and who spoke before me was smooth and articulate . . . and I had decided to drink a cup of herbal tea which led to my bladder was telling me that I HAD to get to the bathroom right away. But I wasn’t sure how long I had before being called up as the highly acclaimed keynote speaker whose name was in big bold letters on the program. Mostly, I felt like crawling under the Crowley and Fleck sponsored keynote table or escaping to the bathroom. Neither of these options seemed realistic.

So I told my bladder to wait its turn and listened to Eden Atwood sing along with a group of fabulously talented and cute young girls. A man at the front table started crying. That’s what happens when you’re at an event celebrating and funding an organization that works with abused and neglected children. It was around then that Eden Atwood and her group (called the MOB) distracted me from my anxiety, calmed me out of my dissociative episode, and inspired me to go ahead and sing and dance around the stage as part of the ending of my keynote.

Just in case you missed it, the whole darn event was awesome. The best part was to be right in the middle of the generosity of so many people who help make Missoula a better and healthier and safer place.

And just in case you’re interested, I managed to deliver most my planned speech and people laughed and afterward offered big compliments. But I’m not certain how well I stuck to the script because at some point I remember saying “Of course, I’m lying about that” which I followed with, “But I understand that lying is popular right now.” I also recall, after one particular non-sequitur, saying something about the fact that because I was a university professor, I could say whatever I wanted and didn’t really have to make any logical sense. None of these comments were in the transcript to my speech. Obviously, I went way off script.

It might be surprising, but my plan to start singing and dancing actually was in the script. However, partway through the song my blank mind returned and I forgot the lyrics. The good news is that I’m fairly sure that everyone, including me, was greatly relieved when I stopped singing.

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Sweating my Way through Charlotte, North Carolina

As my sister likes to say, “we’ve got excellent pores in our family.” By “excellent” she means to say that our pores open up and leak like the Titanic. One time, way back when I was teaching at the University of Portland, I didn’t let enough time pass between playing noon-time basketball and lecturing in an Introductory Psychology class and ended up sweating so much that my glasses fogged up.

And so you can imagine how much my pores enjoyed being in Charlotte, NC in August.

When I showed up at the Ice Cream Social on Tuesday evening I was sweating so much that I was sure everyone was thinking, “Great. It’s the night before he’s scheduled to speak and our keynote for Wednesday morning is ALREADY having a panic attack.” [It’s funny how self-consciousness about something like sweating can suddenly turn on my psychic powers, because I’m pretty sure I was able to accurately read everyone’s mind at that Ice Cream Social.] But really, it wasn’t that terrible because I only had to retreat to my room to change my shirt once during the 20 minutes I spent at the Ice Cream Social.

Note to self: When visiting high humidity regions, always pack clothing that doesn’t accentuate my excellent sweating ability of my pores.

But the real point of this blog post isn’t my personal struggle with perspiration—despite the fact that writing about my sweating is, I’m sure, intrinsically interesting as well as cathartic and desensitizing. The real point is to do some flat out bragging about the Communities In Schools of North Carolina (CIS-NC) programs.

If you don’t know about the Communities in Schools organization, you should. In North Carolina this organization includes an amazing staff with boundless positive energy that they direct toward dropout prevention. If you click on the link to their organization you’ll find a cool website with excellent information http://www.cisnc.org/. Here’s their mission statement:

The mission of Communities In Schools is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. We are part of the national Communities In Schools network, which is the leading dropout prevention organization in the country, and the only such organization that is proven to decrease the dropout rate and increase on-time graduation rates.

I have to admit that before I arrived in Charlotte, I was skeptical about their claims of being “the only organization proven to decrease the dropout rate and increase on-time graduation rates.” This skepticism came from two sources: (1) decreasing drop-out rates is just extremely difficult for everyone, and (2) I’m skeptical about everything. But, after being with the ABSOLUTELY AMAZING administration and staff of CIS-NC for only a few hours, it was clear to me how and why they’re able to help students succeed. Here are a few things I learned.

  • Not only is the staff positive, energetic, and funny, they’re also smart, savvy, and fully dedicated to improving the lives of young people.
  • They utilize a rational balance of evidence-based approaches in combination with approaches that are designed to meet the unique needs of individual schools, staff, students, and settings.
  • They operate using the “5 Basics of Communities in Schools.” These common sense AND evidence-based principles include:
  1. A one-on-one relationship with a caring adult.
  2. A safe place to learn and grow.
  3. A healthy start and a healthy future.
  4. A marketable skill to use upon graduation.
  5. A chance to give back to peers and community.

In addition to all that, I learned that their staff is sensitive, supportive, and compassionate. After all, when I delivered the keynote, they nodded and smiled (showing their listening skills), laughed at all of my jokes at exactly the right time (laughing with special vigor when I did my exorcist voice), and gave me lots of positive feedback for the rest of the morning.

Now it’s up to me to determine if they were just being especially kind to their sweaty keynote speaker or whether they really enjoyed the presentations. I’m hoping for the latter.