Applause for Arab Achievement

On Friday, I had the opportunity of listening to the 2015 World Champion of Public Speaking during his workshop for the Toastmasters Clubs, here in Bahrain.

I was amazed not only at the enthusiasm and clarity with which he shared his thoughts with public speaking aspirants here, but also at the attention and response he got from his audience.

His humour was refreshing and his message was uplifting.

Most importantly, this champion had not come from the US or UK or from some European nation. He came from just across the King Fahd Causeway.

Yes. Mohammed Al Qahtani, from Saudi Arabia, is the first Arab ever, and one of the very few non-English-speaking toastmasters – to have been crowned the ‘World Champion of Public Speaking’ by an international jury.

It was in Las Vegas, at the Toastmasters International Convention held during August 2015, that Mohammed achieved this remarkable feat. Of an Arab first, in the annual world championship’s long history, since 1938.

Mohammed Al Qahtani won the first place, with his speech ‘The Power of Words’, from among ten finalists.

All of them, I understand, had fought intense competition, at many levels, to stand on the Las Vegas stage as the finalists for the World Championship.

He has survived seven rounds of competition in the Toastmasters’ organizational structure – club, area, division, district, region, semi-finals and finals – that lasted six months. It must have easily included about 33,000 competitors from around the world.

I was happy to hear him acknowledge the support and encouragement he received from many Bahraini toastmasters who mentored him towards this brilliant success.

This security engineer from Saudi Aramco says he joined a Toastmasters club in Saudi Arabia, in 2009, on the recommendation of a friend. And he has dreamed to see himself on the world stage and kept working towards it.

What particularly impressed me, from his personal story, are his dreams and also his determination.

For a child who did not start speaking until he was 6 years old, and for someone who still stutters a bit, it must have been a long and arduous task to go on, and win the top speaking award in the world.

His winning is a pride not only to the Arab world, which has only recently started opening toastmasters clubs in the region, but it is also a hope to other non-native speakers of English.

In fact, I am amazed to learn that in the 2015 contest from world-wide competitors, held in the English-speaking nation of USA, the top three winners have been ‘non-native’ English speakers.

They are Mohammed Al Qahtani of Saudi Arabia, Aditya Maheswaran of India and Manoj Vasudevan of Singapore.

So, one thing we can firmly conclude is that English is no longer a language exclusive to the domain of USA or UK.

Those living in USA and UK may be native speakers of English. But evidence is mounting that people from around the world are getting better at this language.

In this day and age when Internet and satellite television is beaming programmes at the same time around the world, it is not impossible for everyone to not only excel in the language, but also become well-versed in the culture of global audience, to connect effectually.

I am sure many problems in the corporate world and in the political world can be effectively avoided if not completely solved, if only there was clearer and stronger oral communication; which is the mission of the Toastmasters movement.