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The Commons
Life and Work

Toastmasters' legacy of learning flourishes for 88 years

Originally published in The Commons issue #180 (Wednesday, November 28, 2012).

BRATTLEBORO—“We learn in moments of enjoyment,” are the words of Dr. Ralph C. Smedley, who founded the first Toastmasters club at the YMCA in Santa Ana, Calif., 88 years ago.

Dr. Smedley, then-YMCA director, created the club in October 1924 for young men to practice their after-dinner speeches in a social environment. Today, nearly 300,000 men and women are improving their communication and leadership skills for a wide range of purposes and audiences using the values and model that Dr. Smedley developed.

In fact, there are more than 13,500 clubs in 116 countries throughout the world. Since the organization’s inception, more than four million people have found their voice and gained confidence through the proven Toastmasters program.

“Dr. Smedley laid the framework for the Toastmasters ‘learn-by-doing’ model,” says Daniel Rex, executive director of Toastmasters International. “The organization’s expansion in recent years is a tribute to the need for the timeless skills of effective communication and leadership. With 19 consecutive years of membership growth, our clubs continue to thrive globally.”

In Toastmasters, members meet weekly to learn and practice public speaking and leadership techniques. There is no instructor; instead, members evaluate each other’s presentations.

Locally, BrattleMasters meets at Marlboro College Graduate Center, 28 Vernon St., room 2E, on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Guests are welcome, and refreshments are provided. A holiday party and open house are scheduled for Dec. 13.

Current membership resides in Vermont, New Hampshire and Western Massachusetts.

For more information, visit or call BrattleMasters president John Snyder at 413-325-6348.

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