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Dawn of a New Century

by Matthew Arnold Stern

This speech is from the advanced Toastmasters manual, Humorously Speaking. It is also the last speech that I gave at the Irvine Toastmasters club in 1999.

It is a great pleasure to be here at the dawn of this new century -- the 22nd Century. I am 138 years old, and I've been with Toastmasters for 108 years. (I'm currently working on my 12th DTM.) When I was born, way back in 1961, people weren't expected to live this long. But thanks to modern medicine and the invention of Arby's fat-free curly fries, I'm as strong as an ox. (Well, an ox that has been slaughtered and pressed into musk oil, but an ox nonetheless.)

Today, I want to share with you my memories of this 21st Century that is coming to a close, that is, if I can remember any of it.

Ah, yes. I remember when man first walked on the face of Mars. Then, we had to beat up those little green men who kept messing with our unmanned space probes. And as our astronauts were pummeling them, they cried, "E.T., phone home! E.T., phone home!" I don't think Elliott will be getting a call anytime soon.

This century, we've seen some great accomplishments in technology. Thanks to 500 terahertz microprocessors and high-speed wireless Internet connections, we can now get junk mail faster than ever before.

I wonder, however, if technology has caused us to lose as much as we gained. I remember driving five miles in the rain to go to the mall to shop. We didn't have those newfangled transporter devices that make merchandise materialize the moment you buy it on the Web. And I remember when a cup of coffee at Starbucks only cost $3.50.

But I've seen some truly remarkable things happen in the 21st Century. It was amazing when the people of my children's generation -- all those people born in the 1990's -- came to political power. They were a truly remarkable generation. They eliminated war. That's right, they eliminated war. Instead, they used Pokemon trading card battles to settle global disputes. It was a bummer when we lost to Lichenstein, though. We had to trade them three original Japanese foil holograph Charizard cards to get back New York City.

But in spite of all changes we've seen in the 21st Century, there are some things that haven't changed. Like, why is it with all the advances in clothes-washing technology, we still lose socks? Or, why is it that by the time you've gained the wisdom to know how to live life the right way, you're too old to do anything about it?

One thing that hasn't changed is our need to communicate. Not only do we need to learn how to express ourselves, but to say something meaningful, say something honest, say something from the heart. That is what I learned in my 108 years in Toastmasters, and something that I hope all of you consider doing as well.

Well, enough philosophizing. Have a great new century!

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