In This Issue:


Greetings Fellow District 35 Toastmasters,

We all chose to join Toastmasters. Choosing to work on our own personal development as a speaker and leader is no easy task. 

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy, in a speech at Rice University, challenged America by saying:

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

I do not, by any means profess to be a speaker or leader like JFK, and no, we are not going to the moon. Those words to me, however, are apt to the task we have at hand as Toastmasters.

Toastmasters has never been easy for me. Some days, commitment to Toastmasters feels like going to the moon, struggling with my nerves and discomfort when speaking. I’m inspired to do my best because it’s hard… because I need to work on the things that help me learn, grow, and better understand myself. The hard work of understanding myself pays off through calmer nerves and more comfort when speaking.

When I need to do something hard, I look for inspiration from leaders like JFK. I also look at my own personal guiding principles. One of my key mentors always talked about how “The Answer is Together.” Together we are all greater than the sum of our parts; no one is alone. That is some of the most important advice I’ve ever received. I couple that with the additional guiding principle I received from my parents: “always try to do the right thing.”

I believe that we work on personal development through Toastmasters because it is hard. Each of us has accepted the challenge to progress through all things Toastmasters: the Toastmasters Education Program, active participation in club meetings, serving as leaders, and adhering to the Toastmasters Promise. Through our actions we demonstrate the Toastmasters Core Values of Integrity, Respect, Service and Excellence.

Fellow Toastmasters, what is your personal inspiration? Why have you chosen to do what’s hard and work on your own development?

I challenge us all to do that ‘something hard’ to finish the Toastmasters year strong. Give a speech at the next club meeting, finish a level or Path, step into a new meeting or club officer role. Mentor a new or new-to-a-role Toastmaster; share what you have learned. None of us is alone in our development.

District 35’s Toastmasters can accomplish anything. We strive to do the right things and work together. YOU can accomplish anything, because Together as Toastmasters We Are All Stronger.

Thank you for helping me on my journey to continue to grow and learn about myself this year. I’ll carry it with me for the rest of this year and into the future.

We’re approaching summer, and especially for us Wisconsinites that means things like vacations, trips to the beach, outdoor sports leagues, etc. After all, it won’t be too long before kids are back in school, the beach is closed due to cold temperatures, and nobody wants to play outdoor sports because the outdoors is downright inhospitable.

Unfortunately, this frequently means that people de-prioritize Toastmasters over the summer as they prioritize recreation – and sometimes they get so far out of the habit that they don’t come back in the fall.

It’s tempting to think of this as a problem. After all, we’re a communications organization. Where are the people at meetings? Who’s going to give a speech? Why won’t everybody just buckle down and commit?

And sure, it’s a challenge. No argument. But what if it was also the solution?

Think about it. Your people are spending time outdoors, developing new relationships, deepening friendships, and doing stuff they love to do. If that’s what your people are doing, why not do it with them?

A year or so ago, I visited a club that had an outdoor picnic at a park pavilion. One Toastmasters club I used to attend has a summer party at a member’s farm. Some of these gatherings still incorporate a Toastmasters meeting. Some don’t. But the one thing they have in common is that they all deepen interpersonal relationships in a way that regular club meetings (particularly regular club meetings on Zoom) just can’t. And, “free food” is a great lead-in for inviting guests!

After all, no matter how great the Toastmasters program is, nobody “joins Toastmasters.” They join a Toastmasters club. And the biggest things that affect which club they join – especially in the world of Zoom – are the people in that club. Picnics and parties aren’t a distraction from the club mission – they’re a core part of it!

So, keep doing speeches. Keep holding meetings. And, don’t forget to get your end-of-year awards in. But also use this summer season to meet people where they are, cultivate deeper relationships among your club members, and lay the foundation for your club’s future successes.

And, if you do something awesome, send along some photos. We’re always excited to see what our clubs are up to!

Despite the sunburn, bugs, and humidity, I really do like summer. The snow doesn’t cancel travel. Huge sweaters don’t bulk up my overnight bag. I can get out and do things much easier – and I hope you have a couple good adventures planned in the coming months! They don’t have to be grand journeys (but if anyone is going to the 100th Anniversary Convention that would count)! Just checking out a new neighborhood can give you a jump start on perspective.

Literally, get out of your comfort zone, physically go somewhere new; it helps you grow. It gives you new frames of reference. It shows you physically something different. You experience different food and exciting communities. Not seeing your usual landmarks especially makes you rethink something as simple as getting around.

This summer I’m going to go camping, visiting a few D35 clubs and helping with farmers markets. I plan to reconnect with Toastmasters across the District and beyond!

I encourage you to take a day, a weekend or heck, your summer break to get out to somewhere new and create your summer adventure!

Your challenge is to reflect on the adventure and determine which Pathways project to use it for: Connect with Storytelling, Inspire Your Audience, Creating Effective Visual Aids or, for a really big adventure, Researching and Presenting. It could be all of them!

Jennifer Kibicho, DTM, Immediate Past District Director

Dear District 35 Toastmasters,

I hope that this message finds you well, and that your year, which is almost half over, is coming together as envisioned.  

This is the third in a series of reflective articles on lessons from District leadership that have proven valuable in my personal and professional life. In the September 2023 edition, I covered traits that distinguish an effective leader from others: the need to perfect the act of taking the initiative, following up with individuals to ensure that the work gets done and, more importantly, following through on commitments in order to be credible. In the December 2023 edition, using two events that I planned in different cultures, I explained how having a vision and dream kept me focused and persistent in the face of adversity, and how being flexible and adaptable helped me see the opportunity in challenging circumstances. In this edition, I will reflect on how important traits I learned in Toastmasters leadership––including decisiveness, questioning self-limiting beliefs and conquering the fear of the new/different/unknown––have helped me gain my freedom of movement by braving the crazy Nairobi traffic.

Driving in Nairobi is one of the most challenging feats that someone who has been away for any length of time can undertake. Let’s say that it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. One has to contend with human traffic, public service vehicles, and motorbikes that do not obey traffic rules and can come from any direction and swerve right in front of you. Many Kenyans who have lived in the diaspora for an extended period of time have a dread for driving in Nairobi’s city center. I used to be one of those Kenyans. On prior trips home, I would hire someone to drive me around. On a 3-month research trip home, I spent several thousand dollars on car rental and a driver. Now that I am home on sabbatical leave for a year, clearly it would be super expensive and unsustainable financially to hire a driver. Other options including ‘begging others for transport’ or using public transportation (aka “matatu”)—which is inconvenient and, in most cases, very high stress—were very unappealing. I had a choice to make. Would I brave the crazy Nairobi traffic? I looked around and saw others, including ladies from all walks of life, driving confidently in the midst of the craziness of Nairobi Traffic. One day I told myself “if they can do it, so can I.”

However, I didn’t just wake up one day and master the courage to start driving in that crazy Nairobi traffic! I had help from trusted friends who believed in me. One friend loaned me her car and gave me a chance to drive it around. Another friend drove around with me until I gained the confidence to drive on my own in the thick of traffic. I am so grateful for those two friends who helped me discover the freedom of driving around on my own. Nearly a year later, I marvel as to why I was so afraid of driving in Nairobi.

As I reflect, three things stand out:

  • Watching the traffic as a bystander is scarier than taking the driver’s seat and navigating the traffic. I was intimidated by what I saw. When in the driver’s seat, you are in control, and you realize you have what it takes to navigate the car safely to your destination.
  • Self-limiting beliefs are very costly and can significantly curtail your freedom. For so many years, I didn’t question my belief that I could not drive in that crazy Nairobi traffic yet all around me were folks from all walks of life navigating traffic and moving forward with their lives. This belief cost me several thousand dollars plus limited my mobility in Nairobi.
  • We may need others to navigate new ground! If you are afraid, let others hold your hand until you gain enough confidence to realize that you can do it!

My experiences with the crazy Nairobi traffic are akin to the apprehensions that many people face when they think of taking on a leadership position. There are many leadership opportunities in Toastmasters that might feel as intimidating as driving in crazy Nairobi traffic. The first time you take on the Toastmasters role at a club meeting, are elected as the club VPE, are appointed as a District leader, you might feel intimidated, inadequate or overwhelmed. Remember, others have been there before you. Don’t let self-limiting beliefs come in the way of the adventure of serving and experiencing new things. Remember that Toastmasters is a safe space where leaders are made.

When my friends from the States visit, they watch in amazement as I navigate cars, motorbikes, human- and cart-driven traffic left and right. They say, “I can’t drive in Nairobi.” I am so thankful for my Toastmasters leadership skills that helped me to gather the courage to brave the crazy Nairobi traffic and get my freedom of movement.

My invitation to you is to take the driver’s seat and take on every opportunity to develop and master the skills that will prove priceless in your personal and professional lives. Make the decision to try something new, which might be scary at first, and say yes to the opportunity to serve in new, challenging, and/or uncomfortable leadership roles. I have said several times and will say again—Toastmasters has yielded dividends in real terms that I could never have imagined.

Are you limiting yourself by not going for all that you could be?  Or are you going for it?

TOASTMASTERS AFTER HOURS (Spring Conference Style)

by Jill Keating, DJAB

DJAB held a Speak-a-thon on May 26, and it was a fantastic time! It’s our tradition to have one on the Friday night of every Toastmasters Spring Conference.

There were a total of eight speeches; that’s a lot for one meeting. The speeches don’t skimp on content. Topics are crowdsourced ahead of time on a variety of crazy subjects. There was a speech on how to claim your boss on your tax return. Another person discussed several celebrities who became controversial (i.e., went crazy) over the span of their careers. One club member even offered a potential travel guide to North Korea.

DJAB’s Speak-a-thons are not only educational but nights full of laughter and camaraderie. If you have a hankering for some high-quality speakers who present with an adult humor twist, contact a club member today! And, be sure to join our ‘after hours’ at Spring Conference 2025.


By Kjersti Beth, Madison Achievers Toastmasters Club

Toastmasters has certainly proven to be a great influence in my life and has given me the confidence to pursue various speaking engagements with confidence. As a healthcare quality project manager by day, I am often able to give my presentations a “test run” at meetings and receive valuable feedback from my Toastmasters team on how to make them more engaging or effective. As a writer by night, involvement in Toastmasters has also given me a way to explore the many voices I have in my storytelling and gives me another creative outlet in which to challenge myself. 

One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give to anyone who wants to compete is to practice every which way you can. Don’t always practice your speech in front of the bathroom mirror. Do it in a different part of the house; do it while you’re vacuuming; do it in the car; do it on the treadmill. Heck, I even practiced in my head while I was having an MRI done. The more places your body and brain are exposed to during the memorization process, the easier it is to be able to deliver it “on the fly” in a new environment that often comes with distractions. 

When practicing your speech to fit within the 5-to-7-minute time frame, practice pausing in different spots throughout. If you speed up one part of your speech, slow it down somewhere else. Anticipate sections that may provoke an audience reaction and account for them in your timing. Think of your speech like a piece of music – you’ll “play” it a little different every time with varied dynamics, rhythm, and soul. The more you play around with what feels right, the more confident you’ll feel in your delivery, and the less it will sound like a “memorized speech.” It will be more of an authentic conversation with the audience.

Finally, remember it’s not about if you make a mistake – it’s how you recover.  If you feel yourself forgetting a line, speak slower and keep your eyes focused. If you look to the ceiling and say “um” it will be obvious to the audience that you messed up. Instead, pause. Maintain your eye contact even if your mind is racing. Repeat the previous sentence if needed (it might jar your memory and, hey, it appears as though you’re repeating for emphasize, not out of panic!). 

From Yoodli to YouTube, there are a ton of great resources out there available to Toastmasters, both new and experienced. There are some excellent books on Speechcraft (TED Talks is also a great resource) to help you with inspiration, skills, and confidence (sometimes you must fake it ‘til you feel it).

As we say in the biz, break a leg and have fun!

By Iain Lampert, Summit Seekers Toastmasters Club

Founded in 1997, the International Public Debate Association is one of the fastest-growing interscholastic debate associations in the nation, with competitive programs ranging from California to Florida, from Texas to Michigan.

I live in Sun Prairie, where I’m a member of the Summit Seekers Toastmasters club. Last year, I set a goal of being the first-ever national champion at the International Debate Association to represent Wisconsin.

Public speaking is always scary. Jumping back into the competitive debate arena after over a decade of competing was terrifying for me. I regularly lost sleep, imagining disheartening defeats. But I was inspired by so many Toastmasters sharpening their skills year after year. I took the plunge.

Month in and month out, I drove and flew down to the competitions in Texas, Missouri, Louisiana, Tennessee, and more. I debated topics concerning sports, pop culture, education, healthcare, space, technology, and philosophy. Each round was short – a half hour to research, and then 26 precious minutes to debate. I put in the work, watching old debate rounds on YouTube, listening to lectures on the theories of argumentation as I drove, and creating over 100 pages of research notes so I felt prepared.

During the 2023-2024 season, I competed at seven IPDA tournaments, earning placement points at each contest. Over 280 institutions participated.

At the end of the season, I was ranked #1 in the professional division’s debating and speaking contests, setting the #1 all-time record with my final placement.

A key part of my approach? Something every Toastmaster knows is crucial–FOCUSING ON FRIENDSHIPS.

One of my first messages to the league was a blanket request for practice rounds.

Being the sole Wisconsinite in a competition full of close-knit southerners was daunting. I wanted a way to make meaningful connections so I’d have emotional and logistical support as a solo competitor.

People were friendly! They added me to group chats and Discord servers. I grew my network. We tried arguments and styles of delivery that are traditionally successful in other formats. I saw which ones didn’t work, which ones did, and which ones could. (Click here to watch one of the debate rounds!)

Before my final round at my seventh tournament, I was surrounded by the people I met before my first round of my premier tournament. They gave me suggestions, shared evidence, and offered words of support.

It takes a village to win a title.

By Michelle Von Ruden, Chippewa Valley Toastmasters

Wow! It finally happened. For the first time before getting on stage, the videographer said, “You don’t look nervous”! Haha joke’s on him; on the inside I was a mess.

It was my very first and only to-date Speaker Showcase. Somehow, I ended up on someone’s list and got a message about a Speaker Showcase in Minneapolis, MN. It didn’t take me long to know I needed to be there. They were offering 10-minute time slots, with professional video, stage photos, and head shots.

This was my opportunity to share my story, the story of how a phone call with my boss should have killed me. It’s my signature story, and I use it every chance I can because it’s so impactful. Now, I was going to have it on video.

“Let’s welcome our next speaker, Michelle Von Ruden.” Okay, I’m mic’d up and ready to go. For the record, whenever I get on stage, I’m nervous and usually you can tell, but this time, it was different. After the first two words left my mouth, a new feeling came over me. I was EXCITED, ELATED, and this, was MY STAGE!

Wow, I had never felt so confident up there before. I can’t pinpoint what was so different about this day. Maybe it was the story; maybe it was having a friend in the audience; or maybe it was the environment. All I knew was that this is what I needed to be doing. It was a game changer for me.

You see, prior to this, speaking was just a way to get my message out, a way to reach people, but now it felt like a calling. I should have seen the writing on the wall. After speaking at the D35 Toastmasters Conference in April, watching the speaking contest, and the amazing conversations I had that weekend, I felt a desire to do more within my chapter. I knew I wanted to help others discover their voices, to lead. I put my hat in the ring to be the Vice President of Education for the Chippewa Valley Toastmasters Chapter. We haven’t voted yet, but I’m hopeful. I know Toastmasters played a hand in what happened at that showcase in May, and I want to help others find their “Wow” moment.

By Jim Vitrano, ROK the Talk, Spectacle City Club

I’m writing this article the afternoon after having breakfast with District 35’s newest Distinguished Toastmaster, Susan Brushafer. We served together as Area Directors two years ago, and when she finished her DTM award, that was even more reason to catch up!  Between bites of scrambled eggs, I told her a story that ended with “this Toastmasters stuff does work!”  She reminded me that this story would make for an excellent article for the D35 Newsletter, and when breakfast turned out to be on Susan, the deal was sealed.

Frankly, I don’t feel much different than when I started Toastmasters nine years ago – maybe less nervous – but what other people perceive is a world of difference from where I started:

– Last summer, my manager at work shared some unexpected news: She was planning to leave her job soon, needed to suggest people to fill her role, and wanted to know if I’d be interested because … “I’m so focused on the people and the culture.” Keep in mind, I’d been working there for less than a year, and that work was entirely remote. I knew I’d have to work hard to make up for being thousands of miles away from my colleagues, but she saw something in me that I had not thought of as special. The good news ends here: the job went to the most senior person on the team, but just being considered showed that something built those people skills.

– This February, I gave a talk explaining Pathways to an online club from California. My speech evaluator used words like “polished” and “insightful” and even “funny”, words that I never would have expected to describe a talk from me. I had worked hard to prepare that talk, but my response to the evaluator came from shock: “I don’t recognize that speaker. That’s not who I see myself to be. But your evaluation is also two great advertisements for Toastmasters. You’ve built up the skills to listen, evaluate, and suggest. And, if others agree with what you had to say, I’ve built some skills too. If I have those skills today, it’s because I’ve been practicing here for nine years. Over time, this stuff does work!”

– In April, I had a short speaking role at District 35’s Spring Conference. This meant being on stage in front of close to 100 people, almost all longtime Toastmasters, and about half DTMs.  For the old me, this would have been a doomsday scenario: being in front of a large group of people, needing to impress them, and making a nervous fool of myself. But for Jim in 2024, there were just a few nerves before going up on stage, nerves that were channeled toward final decisions on what to say. Then I stepped up, faced the audience, delivered the needed information, even added a touch of humor to a dry report. There was no nervous fool on that conference stage!

I still dislike tooting my own horn, and in Toastmasters the remedy is sometimes to toot other people’s horns for them. That can be taken too far, but when it helps people realize that they’re more skilled than they think they are, it unlocks those skills and the motivation to put them to use. That’s incredibly powerful!  And, when the horn-tooting comes from many sources, it can’t be discounted as one person’s opinion or chalked up all to Toastmasters enthusiasm. Even if I’m not entirely comfortable yet with the descriptions I’m hearing, I must conclude there’s something to them. They’re evidence that given the time and hard work we all put in, this Toastmasters stuff does work!



By Justin A Gottfreid, DTM, PDG, PID, Judy Bauer, DTM, PDG, and Teri McGregor, DTM, PRM

At the Annual Spring Conference, we recognized and celebrated a very special milestone for a truly remarkable member of our community, Tom Rozga. Can you believe it? Tom has been a Toastmaster for an incredible 50 years since, April 1, 1974! His dedication to Toastmasters and our District is nothing short of inspiring.

Tom has been a guiding light for us all, both as a personal mentor and as a mentor to countless D35 Trio Teams and District Directors/Governors. As our steadfast District Parliamentarian for many years, he has taught us to maintain balance during stressful times. His wisdom has shown us how to handle the unique challenges of leading in a volunteer organization, where the leadership skills required can be quite different from those we use at work.

Through his guidance, we’ve learned to absorb the impact of leadership with grace. Tom’s speaking style is one we all admire and strive to emulate – he speaks with good posture, smoothness, and control. And when he does speak, we listen, because Tom is a man of few words. But those words are always filled with honesty and compassion.

Let’s take a moment to look back at some of Tom’s achievements. He served as our District 35 Director from 1979 to 1980, leading us to a Distinguished District status. He was recognized as Area Governor of the Year in 1975-1976 and was honored as Toastmaster of the Year in 1983. That same year, he received the prestigious T-Award.

But that’s not all. Tom created and has narrated the D35 Hall of Fame since its very beginning. His voice has become a part of our history, honoring those who have made significant contributions to our District. He’s also served as the D35 Auditor.

As we celebrate Tom’s 50th anniversary with Toastmasters, let’s remember the lessons he’s taught us and the legacy he continues to build. Tom, we thank you for your half-century of service, mentorship, and leadership. You’ve made District 35 a better place for all of us!

Tom’s home club is South Shore Toastmasters Club #3281, and he is a charter member of Resource Advanced Toastmasters Club #5296

By Rod Baker and Laurie Baker, DTM, Love of Laughter Toastmasters Club

A few months ago, we honored longtime retiring Toastmaster Tom McFarlin, aka Tommy Mac, at a Love of Laughter meeting citing his humorous contribution. The farewell roast was a tribute to our own funniest man.

Mr. McFarlin served TM for several decades. Most recently, he served here in District 35 where he was a huge factor in growth, knowledge, and development of the humorous speaking aspect of Toastmasters. Tom started several clubs including Love of Laughter (LOL) and Sales Masters. He always served in some capacity as a club officer (usually President). He reshaped the Toastmaster agenda template to include new items such as humor tipster, improv, and the ‘Ha, Ha Funny Person’ award. These changes spiced up the LOL meetings to encourage more laughter, humor, and fun. Tom’s foresight was groundbreaking. We have now awarded to the funniest person at each meeting the “Tommy Mac Funny Person Award.” The award acknowledges the person who made members laugh the most that night.

Over his many years of service, Tom achieved numerous TM awards, most notably the honored T-award and a DTM. Tom competed in a myriad of speech contests. A few years ago, Tom took 2nd place in the District 35 Humorous Speech Contest. He spoke as a golfer, in full costume, making me fall out of my chair laughing. That performance inspired me to join the LOL club.

Tom was happy to be a part of TM and was a respected force in District 35. Tommy was loved by all for his keen and distinctive Norwegian sense of humor. His legacy will not be forgotten, and his laugh will be remembered as a positive force. Thank You, Tommy! 



Toastmaster Paul Arhnold, DTM, shares the following from his series of Audible articles created to inspire and encourage.


“Every seasoned Toastmaster has an asset account.

Sharing that wealth brings unquantifiable value to others.”


Long-term Toastmasters can almost become superheroes for a club or even a District. They love the organization. The collective value added by these seasoned members is almost quantitatively impossible to measure. They are eager to do whatever it takes to keep their clubs afloat and willing to hold the same office for several terms to serve an ongoing need. Our hats certainly go off to these fine, dedicated individuals for the value they bring.


You are the one who has earned the respect and can bring tremendous value to a newer member by just saying, “it’s your turn to lead and it’s my turn to guide you.” 


Every Toastmaster has value. Every seasoned member has an asset account from which they can share a wealth of knowledge and support. What value can you bring to somebody today?

2023-2024 Triple Crown Awards

2023-2024 Fourth Quarter Triple Crown Awards (Includes New, Additional Level(s) Earned)

Barb B. Sexmith, DTM


Brandon Birrenkott, IP2


Carl Rosine, EC4


Carla Lenk, PI3


Charles E. Elftmann, PM3


Cindy J. Laatsch, DTM


David Humphreys, PM3


David L. Hendrickson, DTM


Debra Ruskamp, EH5


DeDe Obuch, EC5


Dianne Young, DTM


Erin M. Perzichilli, DL4


Janet Ward, DTM


Jason Feucht, DTM


Jim Kohli, DTM, PID


Julie A. Gerasch, PM2


Judith Bauer, DTM


Kathy Shine, DTM


Kristine R. Pool, DTM


Matthew Metivier, EH4


Michael Graney, DTM


Michael Zelm, DTM


Natalie Nowak, DL4


Neal Johanson, PM3


Paul Arhnold, DTM


Ranee Graf, DTM


Robyn Krueger, DTM


Susan Brushafer, DTM


Susan J. Kohut, DTM


Teri L. McGregor, DTM