Valley speakers toast would-be hostages



If you could kidnap and hold hostage a famous person, who would it be and what would you discuss?

That was the question five contestants, members of the Youngstown/Warren Executive Toastmasters No. 408, were asked to address during the group’s weekly meeting Monday that featured a table-topics contest. The two-hour gathering was at Shepherd of the Valley care center, 301 W. Western Reserve Road.

The five had between 1 Ω and 2 Ω minutes to share whom they would spend an evening with and why. Before their turns, each was sequestered in an adjacent room.

Kicking things off was Jim Hruska of Boardman, who selected President Ronald Reagan, calling him “a great communicator.” If given the opportunity, Hruska said, he would want to learn more about Reagan’s political views.

President Barack Obama was the choice of Art Hewitt of Warren, a nine-year member who said he would ask the president what he intends to do to get the country “out of the mess we’re in.” Then the two would likely talk about Obama’s family and other personal matters, Hewitt said.

Afterward, “I would apologize for holding him hostage for the evening; then I would let him go,” he added.

For Miki Thomas of Youngstown, a one-on-one evening with singer Tina Turner would be ideal so Howard could learn more about the singer’s humanitarian efforts, how she rose from poverty to a successful career, and how she survived years of abuse at the hands of her former husband, singer Ike Turner.

“I’d just give her a hug and ask her to tell me her secrets,” Thomas concluded.

Actress Angelina Jolie and Obama were the top picks for Roy Thomas’ imagined evening.

Offering his opinion about the famous actress’s looks and humanitarian work, as well as inquiring more deeply about where Obama got his information for some of his decisions, would make up the bulk of their time together, said Thomas, of Youngstown, no relation to Miki Thomas.

Neither politicians nor performers would satisfy Ed Metzinger’s first choice. Instead, it would be golfer Jack Nicklaus.

“In my eyes, he’s one of the greatest sports icons living today,” the Canfield man said. “He’s bigger than Michael Jordan and LeBron James.”

In a second contest, four local Toastmasters members delivered five- to seven-minute humorous speeches they had prepared.

Both competitions are beneficial largely because they encourage participants to better handle social situations, organize their thoughts and more easily take part in conversations on subjects they have little or no knowledge about, noted Ken Shellito, a former member of the local chapter who timed both contests. Contestants were judged on eye contact, communication skills and effectiveness in getting their point across, Shellito explained.

Winners of the table-topics and humorous-speech contests were Metzinger and Brian McGowan of Boardman, respectively.

Both received a plaque and a certificate and will compete in the next area contest, 10 a.m. Sept. 25 at the Newport branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County in Youngstown.

The 29-member group is the local chapter of Toastmasters International, a nonprofit organization that started in 1924 to help people become more competent and comfortable in front of audiences.

Participants learn and practice skills that include giving prepared or impromptu speeches and conducting meetings, all of which are critiqued by fellow members.

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