District Director: Thoughts on our late Queen

Rupa Datta on how she was inspired by Queen Elizabeth II

I write this month’s piece (originally written for the September newsletter) in a rather pensive mood.

Like the vast majority of you, I’ve only known of HM the late Queen Elizabeth as our Head of State, a woman in leadership and someone whose life was devoted to service from a young age. I’m sure as time passes there will be more reflections and parallels and for someone who was present in different ways for different people, there will be different takeaways.

Last month, at the Toastmasters International convention in Nashville, I had the honour to carry the flag of the United Kingdom during the opening ceremony. It’s hard to describe the thoughts that went through my head when the decisions for allocations of flags were being made and what it was to participate in such an event that really demonstrated the diversity of our organisation.

Given the events of the last two weeks, the whole event feels much more poignant right now.

As we near the time where we are decide on renewing our continued commitment to Toastmasters, our clubs and our personal growth, I can’t help but draw some parallels:

  • Service

The third of our Core Values. We associate 70 years of her reign as a lifetime dedicated to service as she pledged in her speech on her 21st birthday in 1947. In many ways, she was unprepared to take on the role when she did yet did so with grace throughout her reign.

At Toastmasters, we have opportunities to serve everywhere and a safe space to fail from time to time as we are students of leadership and communication. There are opportunities available right now for you to contribute in your own way. This could be within your club or beyond. Just reach out and ask the question – rupa@d91toastmasters.org.uk How can I serve?

  • Lifelong learning

As above, our late Queen spent a lifetime learning her role probably had many mentors throughout her time, and no doubt became a mentor and counsel to others along the way. We may never again see the depth and breadth of experience that one person attained in one leadership position.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have met some incredible Toastmasters who have been with the organisation for decades (I was 2 when one of my mentors and guides joined the organisation!) You may have read it before, and I seem to be reading it a lot at the moment as someone I met last month is posting this quote by the first female to join Toastmasters and a past International President, Helen Blanchard:

‘If you get out of Toastmasters all there is to get out of Toastmasters, you’ll never leave Toastmasters.’

  • Stability

Change is a constant fact of life. We witnessed during the pandemic the extent to which our Toastmasters community was a source of stability for many our our members. As one era ends, and we enter another, for some of us knowing that we have that club meeting to attend every week with a supportive group of people can be an important anchor.

Having the option to renew every 6 months, also gives us the opportunity to review our goals and growth – it’s ok if it may be time to explore a different club or even ‘go beyond your club’.

I have different goals to when I joined Toastmasters in February 2016. Some of what we are witnessing this month, we have never seen before and may never see in our again in our lifetime – the formalities and different types of speeches. Different roles in Toastmasters give you that too – I reflect again having chaired a formal business meeting for District Leaders earlier this month and will be chairing another one for our District and Club Leaders at the end of the month.

I hope you continue your membership with us…and contribute some small steps to help our community grow to 5000 by the end of this Toastmasters year.

“It’s worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change.”

HM Queen Elizabeth II

Rupa Datta

District 91 Director, 2022-23