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Two speeches I gave before and after AmeriCorps Training as a VISTA.
Speeches
by Michael Heyting


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The title of my work is simply Speeches. They are also quite simply thoughts from my heart, for, and about my AmeriCorps teammates and service. They were written to go together, the first one to be read at the beginning of a month long training and it would lead into and set the foundation for the second, to be read after the training was complete.

All of the inspiration for the first one came from my first two years of service, out of and because of my actual experiences serving with the Washington Reading Corps. For instance, the paragraph about Johnny (not his real name, of course) was written with a specific boy in mind and heart when written. I wanted the team to know that this would not be easy, but in the long run would be very rewarding for them.

The second speech actually changed a couple of times during the month. I wanted my team members to know how important the mission is that they took on. More importantly, I wanted them to understand how important, how great they really are, that none of their efforts or endeavors, would be in vain. I wanted them to reflect on the people that made a difference in their lives so they could understand in some small degree the impact they could have on others. I wanted to make them understand that they really are heroes, they can and will make a difference, and that if they touch just one heart their mission is accomplished. The September 11 tragedy affected my writing of this speech, as it did everything else in the world at that time and since.

Speech 1
Hi my name is Michael Heyting. This is my third year as a VISTA with the WRC and my second year as a VISTA Leader. Believe me, not in my wildest imaginations did I ever dream I would be serving a third year in national service.

When Wendy first asked me to address you with some of the positive things I experienced during my service, I thought no sweat, piece of cake. There were so many incredible little miracles and positive experiences along the way that this would be an easy assignment for me. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized these experiences were mine, and they more than likely would not have the same meaning for you, or move you in the same way they did me. Please don't misunderstand me — I have some incredibly moving, heartwarming, emotional, and even funny stories that have happened along the way these past two years, and I would be happy to share them with you. But I think I would rather give you a few pointers on how to get the most out a year of service, than have you listen to a few of my stories.

How many second-year members are here today? Do you guys remember your first week of service, the first week of training, being new at the site, not knowing anyone? Look around — you aren't alone. A lot of us have been right where you are now. You have lots of support — all you have to do is ask and any one of us will be there for you. Just ask!

Would any of you new folks like to ask one of the old timers a question about their first month of service? These people are valuable resources. They have many of the answers that you will need throughout the year. Use their expertise and knowledge; they've been down the same road you are about to set out on. They have completed the same journey you are now starting. As you embark on your new beginning, they continue on in theirs.

Your AmeriCorps journey started with the application, then the interviews, then selection and placement at your site. Now comes all of the training — a lot of training — serious training. Training designed to help prepare you for what you will face in your upcoming year of service. Training that will be applicable many times over in life. Long after your AmeriCorps service is over, you will still be using some of the things you learn during this year of service with the Washington Reading Corps.

I encourage you to take as much with you as you can from this training. You won't remember everything, but you will remember something, and these little lessons you take with you need to be applied at you site, in your community, family, and life. The training is worthless if not applied.

You will have many successes this year and most likely will also have some small setbacks or failures. The trick is not to let the success go to your head or the failures go to your heart.

If you asked me to share one positive thing that happened during your time in service, I would have to answer, I've helped make a difference in lives, and I know my life as been changed for the better by doing so, and I will never be the same again because of it.

Each and every one of you in this room will make a difference this year, and a difference will be made in each and every one of you. Our children, schools, families, and communities will be better because of the people in this room. It really is your world and your chance to make it better.

Are you up to the challenge? If not, now would be the time to gracefully bow out — not half way through the school year, when little Johnny has finally let his guard down and is beginning to trust you. He's looking forward to the next reading time with you. He knocks on your door at recess instead of heading for the playground, he just wants a little more reading time … with you. You are making a difference. Johnny now has more self-esteem, wow; he started out two grades below level, and now he's reached grade level. He even reads in front of people … out loud. This kid had every label given to problem kids when you started tutoring him. Can you believe he hasn't been sent to the office once this quarter and his report card had nothing under a C. Someday, Johnny will remember you as the one who made the difference in his life!

Leave now … or take the challenge … make the difference. Love these kids, look for the sparkle in the eyes, and listen to the laughter in their voices. Watch what happens when they finally get it … to them and to you. If you're in, you're in for the long haul.

Your world, your chance to make it better. I look forward to serving with all of you.

Thank You

Speech 2
Good Afternoon. At the beginning of this month, I spoke a about the AmeriCorps journey you were all starting, and how the training would be applicable in all areas of life. I encouraged you to take as much as possible with you from the trainings.

I challenged each of you to make a difference in the lives of the children you touch. I said that if you were not up to the AmeriCorps journey and the challenges you would have to face along the way, you should leave now, because at some time along the way the road would get pretty rough.

I spoke about how we were all a team and if we relied on each other the journey would be much easier. Well, the month of training is over and all of you are still here. I have to assume that all of you have accepted the challenge to make a difference, to make your world a better place. Each and every one of you are to be commended for that, you are giving up a year of your life, some of you may end up giving two or three years, for service to your fellow man. You are truly in the minority, not many are willing to perform such a selfless act. Think for a moment how much better our communities, our country, our world would be, if everyone was willing to choose such as all of you have. Martin Luther King said, "Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve." All of you are great for that very reason … your choice to serve.

Before this year is over, each one of you will deserve a medal of commendation. You won't get one, but you will deserve one. Your efforts will mostly go unrecognized except for a select few who will really know the differences you have made. To some, you will be heroes.

I was thinking about heroes a while back and I came to a realization that our country is lacking in heroes during this moment in history, or at least that was my perception of things then. Sure we can pick up any history book and find all kinds of heroes past. Some of my personal favorites include George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Jesus — they were all heroes in my book. See, it is easy to recognize heroes in the past but not so easy to recognize present time heroes … or is it?

Take for instance Osama Bin Laden. To many he is a hero, but it grieves my heart and my spirit to think that there are people in this world who look up to him. We can look at the bright side. What I mean by that is, because of him and his evil, destructive, unjust, wrong, and immoral acts to his fellow man, he has caused me to recognize a number of things, two of them being, how great our country really is and the real heroes all around us.

After some reflection on this being my third year of national service and the current events of our country, I see now and understand that miracles and heroes are all around us, every day. They are just waiting for the right moment to spring into action when needed, and none of them even know they are heroes. Take a moment to do some reflection in your own life. Look around — I am sure you will see them too.

For me there was Miss Truax, my fourth-grade teacher; Mrs. Larson, my high school art teacher; Mr. Warnstadt, my high school English teacher; Granny Roe, the most spiritual person I have ever known; and Dad.

Because of the tragedy of September 11, I recognize the real heroes, the true heroes, the great heroes. The heroes in our families, churches, schools, and communities — you people are some of those heroes. As I said before you probably will never receive an award or medal or be recognized for your actions except by a select few, but know this: You are making and have made a difference in this world and maybe that is all that really counts. Just knowing that you — me — we made a difference.

My new challenge to all of you is this: Go home and think about the mentors, the coaches, those who made a difference, the heroes in your own life. Think about where you might be had they not been in your life. Then decide to make a difference in your families, schools, churches, communities, and sites. Make a difference, touch a heart, be there for someone when the need is there.

I would like to close with a quote from Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

You are part of that small committed group, it's called AmeriCorps, And you are an AmeriCorps member. Be proud of that, Remember, it’s your world and your chance to make it better. Be a hero!

Thank you


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