The Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri: women building better communities.
Jane Guthrie, Member since 1984, reached out with this story from her experience with the Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri. Many of you will recognize her friendly face from Headquarters, and I’m delighted to share it with you on The League Pulse.
Public speaking was my nightmare—absolutely the hardest, worst thing anyone could ask me to do. Dry mouth, pounding heart, paralyzed vocal chords, vision that swam and made me dizzy. Always a “just kill me now” experience, whether the circumstance was a small presentation at church or a large event for professional colleagues.
The first time I remember coming close to needing an ambulance onstage was my senior year of high school. I was making a graduation speech and felt passionately about my subject. This offered great motivation, but not a bit of strength. I gave myself mental CPR and somehow made it through periods of apnea and life review, but I regretted succumbing to terror and not enjoying one of the best opportunities of my 18 years.
Move ahead to post-age 30 and a spring evening in the auditorium at St. Paul’s School in Kansas City. I was a first-year Active in the Junior League of KCMO, and the members of my Teenage Pregnancy Priority Group had asked me to address the membership about our findings after a year of study. As the League operated at that time, this could make a difference between our proposed project appearing on a ballot later or staying unworked in a discarded report.
I had taken the details of our study and written them into a profile of a fictitious Kansas City teen. As I approached the microphone after President Patty Brous introduced me, the familiar companions of weak knees and breathlessness took their places. I started speaking and swallowed my words a couple of times, unraveling the story of a 15-year-old adolescent mom. As I faltered, stumbling through my terrified present to describe this girl’s uncertain future, I noticed the encouraging faces in the audience. These women wanted “Joanne” to succeed and wanted me to as well. Their empathy and interest gave me wings during a frightening freefall.
I’m a Sustainer now and have never choked up again during public speaking. The opportunities as well as challenges over time have been varied, but from addressing an editorial board to delivering a memorial, I’ve always made grateful use of my Junior League “cure.”