Tag Archives: public speaking

The River, “Creating Young Winners,” Treasure Coast Junior Rowing Club, SLR/IRL

Treasure Coast Rowing Club, 2015
Treasure Coast Junior Rowing Club, 2015

The other day at a Martin County Commission meeting, I felt like a parent beaming with pride. I had been there about four hours when my mother popped into the meeting, then my sister, and then Evie, Jenny’s daughter who is now 15. This is the only child that I literally saw born into the world…

Following Evie were many of her team mates, young men and women. So cute! And to see them sitting there in the commission chambers, what a sight! When public comment came around my niece, Evie, confidently walked to the podium and ask the commissioners to support full funding of a dock at Leighton Park that would allow the youth and others not to have to walk on the river bottom to launch their skiffs. This area of the St Lucie River is has the highest bacteria levels and is ground zero for the polluted discharges from C-44 and Lake Okeechobee. Cutting feet on dead oysters is not a good idea and even with shoes is dangerous. As we know open wounds in filthy water can have devastating consequences.

I watched in awe.

Tears swelled up in my eyes seeing Evie unafraid to “go before the commission.” As a commissioner for the Town of Sewall’s Point myself and as someone who has spoken before commissions prior to my commissionership, I know the tortured feeling of inadequacy that can often come upon one in such a situation. The commissioners up high on the dais, peering down on you, like you are a mere peasant. It is very intimidating even for the most educated and confident.

Because Evie is a River Kid whose mission is to “speak up, get involved, and raise awareness,” she has  been speaking before commissions, politicians, and high level agency  leaders  since she was 10 years old! Going before the Martin County Commission was “old hat” for her. “What a gift,” I thought. The gift of learning public speaking and being at ease with it….a skill that can be applied to all aspects of life.

Evie Flaugh, speaks on behalf of her team, before the commission. 8-18-15. (JTL)
Evie Flaugh, speaks on behalf of her team, before the commission. 8-18-15. (JTL)
Evie's notes she wrote herself to speak before the commission. (2015)
Evie’s notes she wrote herself to speak before the commission. (2015)
"The team."
“The team sitting in the commission chambers.” (JTL)
Parental support staff, and coast Stefani Faulkner far right. (JTL)
Parental support staff, and coast Stefani Faulkner far right. (JTL)

Coach Stefani Faulkner, spokesperson Dr Eric Pheiffer, and parents accompanied these kids. Take a minute see the good work they are doing! They are winning state competitions. And the river, in spite of its challenges, is helping make winners of them all!

Website TCRC: (http://treasurecoastrowingclub.com/index.php)

“The Treasure Coast Rowing Club (TCRC) was established to stimulate and foster interest in the sport of rowing among amateurs. We promote this interest through education and competitions using every reasonable endeavor for the advancement and up-building of amateur rowing in accordance with the best traditions of sportsmanship. Our goal is to have a safe and fun environment where both adults and youth rowers can enjoy the sport of rowing. We aim to teach the joys of rowing to anyone willing to learn and wanting to get behind an ore, or on the water. We welcome all athletes regardless of their ability or experience. If you are willing to show up and work hard, there is a place for you in our boats”. (TCRC website)

Watch this awesome video featuring the team. It will motivate you, even if you are not motivated! Seriously. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKaD5rmf_wQ#t=12

Link to video: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKaD5rmf_wQ#t=12)

TCRC juniors. (website photo)
TCRC juniors. (website photo)
Carrying boat off dock into waters of SLR. (website photo)
Carrying boat off dock into waters of SLR. (website photo)
Sunset....
Sunset….

The Power of Public Comment, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

River Kidz member Hannah Angelo Walker speaks before the Stuart City Commission, 2015. (Photo JTL)
River Kidz member Hannah Angelo-Walker speaks before the Stuart City Commission, 2015. (Photo JTL)

As seven-year small-town commissioner of the Town of  Sewall’s Point, one forum I have come to love and appreciate, although it is sometimes quite “painful,” is “public comment”—-the time set aside during a public meeting, for the public to speak…

Time set aside is usually three minutes. This may seem short, but it is HUGE. When one really thinks about it, public comment, of any length, is a remarkable and powerful distinction of American politics.

*”The basis for “public comment” is found in general political theory of constitutional democracy and originated during and after the “French Enlightenment.” This basis was elaborated during the American Revolution, and various thinkers such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson,  and Thomas Paine are associated with the rejection of tyrannical, closed government decision-making in favor of open government.”

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French to the United States. (Public image.)
The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French to the United States as was the idea of “public comment.” (Public image.)

I just love this!

This Thursday, at 9AM, the South Florida Water Management District is holding its Governing Board Meeting at 3301 Gun Club Road in West Palm Beach, 33406. Many from the public will be attending.  The SFWMD is a public body, just as is a town, city or county commission. Public comment is part of the agenda. This is a great opportunity to influence the board…

Flyer for meeting at SFWMD. (Facebook)
Flyer for meeting at SFWMD. (Facebook)
Great Seal of the Untied States.
Great Seal of the Untied States.

Today,  I would like to tell a story of my worst experience with”pubic comment” and encourage those who speak on Thursday to use some of the principles we teach for the kids…River Kidz that is. Kidz trying to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon…

Here’s my story….

I have participated on both sides of public comment. I respect it, but it is not always easy.

In 2013,  I experienced the greatest “lashing” I have ever received in my life during pubic comment at the Town of Sewall’s Point.  I can still recall the entire episode: the older distinguished gentleman waving his finger in the air, yelling, saliva flying, red-faced, furious with me….tunnel vision set in, and I just sat there, in disbelief really, saying to myself: “just keep looking him in the eye.”  I was being berated for supporting the firing of our town manager and how that came to be… When I went home that night, I really felt awful. In fact, it was hard to sleep. Being yelled at in public in front of all of those people was quite humiliating. That three minutes felt like eternity.

Public comment is part of having "freedom"....
Public comment is part of having “freedom”….

Later, when I told the gentleman’s wife in the grocery store, that I was hurt by her husband’s words she coolly replied: “You asked for it….” She was implying that I ran for public office, and this was part of the “responsibility” of being an elected official….listening to the public…good or bad….

Although that wasn’t the compassion I was looking for, she was right.

Over time, I can’t say that I feel any better about that experience, but I did learn a lot and thankfully, most of the time, public comment is not so difficult. In fact, most of the time, it is my favorite part of the meeting.

I am proud of America. I am proud that we are allowed to “speak up.” I am proud that tyranny has obstacles, although sometimes it seems it reigns here too.

Did the man achieve success by yelling at me? Maybe, but I don’t think so….let me explain. “People do business with people they like and trust.” No matter who you are, it is not human nature to trust those who yell at you.

River Kidz teaches public speaking, and was born of kids here in the Town of Sewall’s Point.  Over the past four years, it has  grown to encompass St Lucie County as well as Martin County. Their self-created mission statement reads:

“Our mission is to speak out, get involved, and raise awareness because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers.”

Encouraging  the kids to speak in public is one of the “pillars” of the grassroots organization:

River Kidz co-founder, Evie Flaugh sits with her mother, Jenny, preparing to speak before the Martin County Commission, 2011.
River Kidz co-founder, Evie Flaugh sits with her mother, Jenny, preparing to speak before the Martin County Commission, 2011.

We do not teach “yelling at the board” as part of River Kidz, we teach respect, projection, confident body language, sharing personal antidotes about how the river affects your life, doing one’s homework, and finishing before your 3 minutes is up…”

Simple, successful, rules of public comment….

So God Bless America! Where we are free to speak out! Where we are free to exercise our constitutional right to assemble and petition our government!

Speak boldly! Speak wisely! Speak with passion and dignity! The river is “turning course,” “buy the land!”—Our voices can be  the current of the future….

Rivre Kidz teaches public speaking and speaking before public bodies.
Rivre Kidz teaches public speaking and speaking before public bodies.
River Kidz member, Keile Mader, 10, speaks in Tallahassee for the "Clean Water and Amd. 1 Rally." She wrote her own speech. (Cyndi Lenz, 2015)
River Kidz member, Keile Mader, 10, speaks in Tallahassee for the “Clean Water and Amd. 1 Rally.” She wrote her own speech. (Cyndi Lenz, 2015)
Me with River Kidz member Victoria Dalton who was honored the year at the Environmental Stewardship Awards for her public speaking before the Senate Hearing on the IRL and in other public arenas. (Photo friend on Facebook.)
Me with River Kidz member Victoria Dalton who was honored this year at the Environmental Stewardship Awards for her public speaking before the Senate Hearing on the IRL and in other public arenas. (Photo friend on Facebook, 2014.)

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History of Public Comment in USA: (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_comment)

Town  of Sewall’s Point: (http://www.sewallspoint.org) 

River Kidz/Rivers Coalition, (see tab RK): (http://riverscoalition.org)

River Kidz’ Feedback–“Clean Water/Amd. 1 Rally,” SLR/IRL

 

Katy Lewey of St Lucie River Kidz leads way at the "Clean Water/Amendment 1 Rally," Tallahassee, Florida 2015. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.)
Katy Lewey and her daughter Hannah of St Lucie River Kidz lead the way at the “Clean Water/Amendment 1 Rally,” Tallahassee, Florida 2015. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.)

River Kidz member, Keile Mader, 10, speaks at the Clean Water/Amendment 1 Rally, Tallahassee, 2-18-15: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvE3-dJjp0Q)

Naia Mader and Olivia Siegel give feedback on rally experience: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MG_t_uG9Zko)

 

Question posed to River Kid: “So do you think you’ll become a politician?”

“Ummm..no…but I think I’ll be a better public speaker….:)”

 

This blog post is a follow-up to yesterday’s: “Tallahassee or Bust! River Kidz and the Clean Water Rally, Tallahassee, 2015.”

Yesterday, River Mom, Nic Mader, dropped off Naia, Olivia, Keile and I in front of the state capitol building for the Clean Water/Amendment 1 Rally…The sounds of speakers and music filled the air; the bright colors and black skeletons of Janeen Mason’s Solidarity Fish project  could be seen in the distance….(http://www.solidarityarts.com); various members of the RIVER WARRIORS, and others, came up to say “hello;” it was a cool, bright, sunny day and a sense of history exuded from every giant oak tree draped with spanish moss….

“Girls stop.” I said.

Naia, 14, Olivia, 13,  and Keile, 10 turned around and looked at me inquisitively.

“River Kidz, I want you to look around you for a minute. I want to share something with you that you may not think too much about… “THIS is part of the First Amendment, of the United States of America: “the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government”…not all countries of the world allow this. My friend Aletha Jones teaching in China in 1989 when their government brought tanks into Tiananmen Square opening fire. Our country and our form of government, have many failures…but our “right to assemble” is key to what is “good” in our democracy….Participate today and know, you too, are a part of this great history of our country ….”

The girls nodded their heads in partial understanding, used to my occasional rants,  and we walked to the steps of the Florida capitol to be a part of the “Clean Water and Amendment 1 Rally” for the State of Florida’s historic 75% passage of the “Water and Land Conservation Initiative, Amendment 1, 2014.” (http://ballotpedia.org/Florida_Water_and_Land_Conservation_Initiative,_Amendment_1_%282014%29)

The rally was a message to the governor and the legislature to spend those monies as is intended within the language of the bill. For those of us coming from the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon Region, this means spending some of this money to purchase option lands south of Lake Okeechobee to store, clean and convey water south to the Everglades, in time, saving the dying estuaries of St Lucie/IRL and Caloosahatchee rivers.

Springs.
Springs sign-Katy Lewey overseeing the SL and Martin River Kidz.

Before the capitol and on its stairs, were people from all over the state;  we even saw Dr Bob Knight, a legend in the springs movement. Most of Florida’s springs have been equally deviated by poor “water” decisions by state, federal and local governments.

River Kidz speaking before the Senatae committee. Watch here: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLFWWEtiwig)
River Kidz speaking before the Senatae committee. Watch here: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLFWWEtiwig)

It was a whirlwind of a day. The River Kidz were able speak at the rally; write short speeches, and to present them before Representative Larry Lee, Senator Joe Negron, and then, again, at the Senate Natural Resources Committee. They passed out their new River Kidz Second Edition Workbook, “Marty the Manatee” inspired by Mr Marty Baum, the Treasure Coast Indian Riverkeeper.

It was a good day.

Did we feel “warm and fuzzy feedback” regarding our request for option land purchase in the Everglades Agriculture Area (EAA) south of Lake Okeechobee?

“No.”

Did I hear such things as “Steve Crisafulli, the House Speaker may want  to be the Commissioner of Agriculture, and Adam Putnam does want to be governor.”….”agriculture/sugar does not want to sell the land now”—“and believe you me they are 20 years ahead the rest of you investing millions, if not billions of dollars, on a state and national level—–to influence politicians”…..”but its not all doom and gloom—things are moving”—–“and the subsiding EAA lands”—-“oh yes, and the future of Cuba,” “you never know—- maybe”…..”it’s changing so fast…”the advocacy along the Treasure Coast is noticed and making a difference…”

YES. I did hear such things….

🙂 (I will never reveal my sources but I can tell you I have good ones and spoke to many people…..)

Did we, the River Kidz: did I Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, and River Mom , Nichole Mader find “this” discouraging?

“Yes, and No.”

Yes, because coming up against any wall is never fun when one is looking to go forward…

Nonetheless, I also know, and have been told, all this pushing IS having effect. I also know it may push the “powers that be” faster into what-ever-it-is that breaks this wall of historical government/agriculture “self-interest,” because water and the flood gates of the people will in time bring it down.

Of that I am certain.

Thank you River Kidz! Thank you all! For securing a better water future!

Maggy Hurchalla...
Maggy Hurchalla…
Mark Perry before the Senate Natural Resources Committee. (JTL)
Mark Perry before the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
Cris Costello, Sierra Club.
Cris Costello, Sierra Club.
Kidz with aide in Senator Simmon's Office, delivering their workbook.
Kidz with aide in Senator Simmon’s Office, delivering their workbook.
Senator Dean's office, chair of the Nat'l Resouces Senate Committee.
Senator Dean’s office, chair of the Nat’l Resources Senate Committee.
Bill McCullum and others in background during Senate meeting.
Former Attorney General, and House of Representatives, Bill McCollum and others in background during Senate meeting.
Senator Negron's office.
Senator Negron’s office.
Representative Lee's office.
Representative Lee’s office.
Senate schedule.
Senate schedule.
Olivia Siegle's speech.
Olivia Siegle’s speech.
Keile Mader's speech.
Keile Mader’s speech.
Naia Mader's speech.
Naia Mader’s speech.
River Kidz before the capitol building.
River Kidz before the capitol building.

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River Kidz is a division of the Rivers Coalition: (http://riverscoalition.org)

River Kidz Martin County: (https://www.facebook.com/pages/River-Kidz/237123116309196)

River Kidz St Lucie County: (https://www.facebook.com/riverkidzslc)