The speech, as I recall, was all off the cuff — no notes, prompts or cues of any kind.
It could have been a watershed moment for me. Now that I think about it, I might have been this close to becoming a speechifying politician had fate tricked me into thinking on that particular day that I actually might be good at baring my soul in front of strangers.
As life turned out, I didn't give another speech until 13 years later, when I took a public speaking class in college. For my final grade, I recited a poem that I had written. A lot of good that class did me because I didn't speak in front of an audience again for another 35 years or so.
|Mementos of a long career. (Photos by Donnie Roberts)|
Suddenly, all those notes, prompts and cues that I had abandoned as a first grader were imperative now. So I wrote myself a script and practiced it a few times. It clocked in at just under three minutes, essential on a night when the 145 or so folks in attendance were probably itching to rush home and watch the Florida State-Clemson football game.
There's not a lot I remember after reaching the podium. Familiar faces that I had socialized with just moments before suddenly turned into complete strangers. I was standing in a tunnel and time stood still. When I did start talking, the mic made my voice sound like somebody else's. "Pro-JECT, pro-JECT", I kept telling myself, recalling the only lesson I could remember from my ancient public speaking class.
I thanked my newspaper colleagues. I thanked my wife. I expressed my sincere amazement at the incredible honor I was receiving. But I got through it. My friends, who somehow rematerialized from the land of total strangers, said I did a nice job and I was grateful for that.
|I applaud my wife, Kim, for her incomparable support in my career.|
And so ended a special night, and my thanks to all.
|The entire Class of 2013 Davidson County Sports Hall of Fame.|