Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pat Johnson, Toastmasters International President, visits Kumamoto, Kyushu

Japan, District 76 was honored with a visit from Pat Johnson, a few months after she assumed her position as International President. This is unprecedented in my 15 year Toastmasters career to see and listen to such a high level Toastmaster's official in Japan in person and, in particular, just a few hours travel from where I live. It was a once in a lifetime experience and it was most rewarding.

Pat's speech was adeptly titled "You Raise Me Up" and she beautifully sang and charmed the hearts of all the participants, right from the beginning:

“You raise me up as I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up ... to more than I can be.”

The song, I remembered, was sung at the Super Bowl in 2004 in Houston Texas, to honor the one year anniversary of the NASA Shuttle Columbia disaster. The Japanese, in particular, can mostly remember the song as it was used by their native daughter skater Shizuka Arakawa as the background music in her relentless road to Olympic championship. Why Shizuka chose it? I surmise she sensed an inspiration and compassion in its Irish rhythm and tunes quite intimate and familiar to her and all the Japanese people.

The lyricist is Brendan Graham (1945 - ) born in the County of Tipperary. He is also the author of The Whitest Flower (1998), The Element of Fire (2001) and The Brightest Day, The Darkest Night (2004). I haven't read any of them yet, but a search on Google reveals they are Irish epics that document the stories of surviving women since the days of the great famine in Ireland, leaving Ireland for Australia, Canada and the U.S. for a better life. Brendan admitted that the song embodied the feeling of all the novels.

I learned also from the official web site for "You Raise Me Up" that the song persisted, had a life of its own. It was composed by Rolf Lovland of northern Norway and performed by Fionnuala Sherry, an Irish violinist - the duo that make up the Secret Garden. It was a miracle similar to that of the beautiful song Amazing Grace. It's now sung and played everywhere throughout the world from the London Community Gospel to an African children choir.

Economically and geopolitically, Japan has been in a downward trend for two decades among the neighboring powers. Like Ireland, we desperately need decisive turnaround with positive will power and encouragement and help from worldwide friends.

Pat Johnson inspired Japanese Toastmasters with a magic to go all out
for it. Thank you, President, for sharing your wonderful message with us, bringing much pride in ourselves for our practice of being dedicated Toastmasters.

No comments: