Toastmasters – Ice Breaker: Waking Up In a Nation of Immigrants

waking up in a nation of immigrants

I just finished delivering my Toastmasters Speech #1: The Ice Breaker. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from my fellow club members. They enjoyed the flow of the story, the topic, the humor, and the overall presentation. I was also voted as best speaker for the day. Sweet. This gives me confidence to carry on and be the best speaker I can be 🙂

Below is the text of my Ice Breaker speech. It was from my old blog post. I re-wrote it in speech form and edited it to fit the 6-minute time limit. Looking forward to more public speeches.

“Ang di marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay di makararating sa paroroonan.” [Translation: “He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.]”
~ Dr. Jose P. Rizal (Philippine National Hero)

I remember it like it was yesterday…

“We don’t have stick-shifts here,” said the guy on the front desk.

“Oh, ok. Fine. I’ll take automatic. Economy, please.”

I could still smell the “brand new” scent of my first rental car. It was a 1997 Hyundai Accent GT from Enterprise. It took me a while to pull out of the parking lot because I didn’t know I had to step on the darn brake so I could shift the darn gear. I felt stupid that morning.

So there I was, my first time driving an automatic transmission on Interstate-90 on my way to Arlington Heights, IL.  I was overwhelmed. Where I come from the roads were narrower, the traffic lanes were imaginary, and cars moved bumper to bumper.

Ahh, so this is how it feels like driving on the freeway. Cool.

Then a motorist honked and gave me the finger. I think it was his way of saying that I was too slow merging with the traffic. I just shrugged my shoulders and said to myself, Welcome to America, live long and prosper.

It took me two hours and a couple of gas station stops before I found my hotel, Red Roof Inn. Thanks to the crappy rental car map.  As soon as I entered my room I put my belongings aside, took a deep breath, and plunged myself on the bed. Suddenly, reality hit me. For the first time in my life I was alone, away from my family, away from my friends, away from all the people I know. I was a complete stranger in this place. I just moved into a foreign land with only a suitcase full of clothes and a box of books. I wanted to just lay there and wallow in sadness… But there was no time for melodrama. I was hungry. All I could think of was, Now where can I buy a pizza? I ate pizza for the next two days.

Fast forward ten years later… After working for different companies as an IT consultant; after toiling on different projects including the infamous Y2K bug; after moving from Schaumburg, Illinois to Boulder, Colorado and to Kirkland, Washington; after being a good law-abiding citizen who paid his taxes on time — I found myself in a room full of people from all over the world–more than thirty countries all in all. It felt surreal. I was with ninety-nine people raising our right hands in front of the Red, White, and Blue flag, renouncing our citizenship from the country where we were born, taking our pledge of allegiance with the United States of America (so help me God). I was neither sad for renouncing my citizenship nor ecstatic for gaining a new one. But I felt a sense of gratitude for being granted special privileges, like voting in the most powerful Democratic nation in the world, and being able to travel more freely to other countries with no restrictions (except maybe Iraq, Afghanistan, or Cuba).

And so, on April 2nd, 2007, on a Holy Monday morning, I woke up as a Filipino. And in the evening I went to sleep as an adopted citizen of this great Nation of Immigrants. I may have taken an oath, signed some papers, received a fancy certificate, got a hi-tech blue passport, but to be honest I don’t feel any different. Why? Because I’ve always considered myself as a citizen of the world. And during my lucid moments, I’m also reminded that I’m neither this body, nor this mind, nor any nationality… But that, my friends, is a topic for another story.

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