Emily Austin (they/them), President
Don Zwink (he/him), VP Education
Barry North (he/him), VP Membership
George Reilly (he/him), VP PR | Webmaster
David Flood (he/him), Secretary
Bingram Lai (he/him), Treasurer
Bill Sanders (he/him), Sergeant-at-Arms
Ann Paris (she/her), Immediate Past President
Left to Right: Barry, Bill, George, David, Emily, Bing. Not pictured: Don, Ann.
Reflecting On The Club’s History
By Charter Member Bill Sanders, ACS, ALB
I arrived in Seattle in the fall of 1987 as a fellow at the University of Washington. My Master’s program was intense and would be completed in one year. That year included many opportunities to be at the front of the room, and I knew early on that I would need to do better at presentations if I wanted my career to go forward.
At the same time of that realization, I met Dan Pierce and it didn’t take him long to tell me that what I needed was Toastmasters.
Dan had already spent years in Toastmasters and had been a district level officer as well. But then, he was focused on a new project. That project would come to be in less than a year; Freely Speaking Toastmasters, an LGBTQ toastmaster club “open to all.”
District 2, our local TM governing body, thought the club might want to limit membership to the LGBTQ community and were willing to bend rules to allow that. We were firm and resounding in our reply. No, absolutely not! The “open to all” was critically important to the founding members (there had to be twenty members to charter a club) because as Lesbian and Gay individuals, we knew daily, what it was like to not be included.
“The “open to all” was critically important to the founding members…because as Lesbian and Gay individuals, we knew daily, what it was like to not be included.”
We did have our supporters at the District level and one was the District Governor, Donna Seamon. When we were scouting and promoting to get twenty members to enroll into Toastmasters, Donna promised us a champagne celebration when we reached our twentieth member. She kept her promise in head-turning time because we were able to quickly get twenty members together and officially charter the club in September of 1988. The champagne corks popped at The community room at Melrose Terrace Condominium
Of course, we had our high points and lows. We lost a beloved member to AIDS in our early years; we moved the club around to different meeting spaces which always challenged our membership numbers; and we had times when the membership was so low that the officers had discussions about closing the club. But these were counterbalanced by many high points including successful wins at district level speech competitions; recognition from and allegiance with other LGBTQ clubs; distinguished visitor, State Legislator Cal Anderson (who was first elected to office three months after our charter); and the smallest, yet largest high point of all is thirty three years of continuous 1 ½ hour meetings with speakers, evaluators and table topics. That framework alone is what keeps Freely Speaking alive and working!
I’ve been asked more than once; “If you have been in Toastmasters all of these years, haven’t you learned everything there is to know about speaking?” And my reply is this. Toastmasters and communication is like going to the gym for a workout. You cannot expect to go to the gym; build the muscle that you want, and then quit. Toastmasters is like that. We need to continue to work out with public speaking to keep the skills working.
Toastmasters and communication is like going to the gym for a workout. You cannot expect to go to the gym; build the muscle that you want, and then quit. Toastmasters is like that.
—Bill Sanders, ACS, ALB