143 Countries Just Like Me

143 Countries Just Like Me

By Jamie Pickering, DTM, District Director


The Denver International convention was my third convention to attend, but I’d been hearing about them for years.  I remember watching our past trios prepare for being gone a week, assigning tasks and setting out of office email notices.  These past three years, attending myself has been an experience I’ll carry for a lifetime.

International calls on the trios to help fulfill roles at the convention.  As the Club Growth Director or the Program Quality Director we are judges, ballot counters, or maybe even a timer.  As the District Director I am asked to be a flag bearer in the opening ceremonies Parade of Flags.  I was honored and ecstatic to carry the home country flag of a fellow club mate, Helene Onomo of Cameroon.  I had no clue what I would take away.

I made it through the rehearsal – now it was show time.   Which meant it was time to stand around in a line, at least it was supposed to be a line.  You try telling a bunch of District Directors to stay in line and you see what happens!  Poor International staff, I’m sure they felt like they were herding cats!  The parade starts and I know what to do.  Starting back stage we are to walk up 4 stairs, turn into the curtain opening, raise our flag, walk 10 steps to the mark on the stage, pause for 1 second then continue on down off the stage to the back of the room to line a center aisle, all while smiling.  Easy, right?

I remember going up the stairs then lining the center aisle, nothing in between!  Looking back at videos I did all the other things too, I just don’t remember them!  One in place lining the aisle all my ‘I got this’ and ‘hi everyone, I’m in a parade of flags’ fades away and I watch as flag after flag, country after country is announced, cheered, and celebrated.  I’m hit with just how international Toastmasters International is.  I know that sounds funny but I think we forget how big our organization is.

I’m standing in a convention center, but my eyes are seeing across the globe and my ears are hearing the cheers of Toastmasters just like me.  Just like me.  They may wear different clothes than me, even speak a different language than me, and most likely don’t start their meetings with the pledge of allegiance like me.  But their story is like me, their journey in Toastmasters is like me, and they are working to be the best versions of themselves just like me.  At a moment when my eyes are opened to how truly big the globe is I just as quickly realize how reachable it is when you’re a member of Toastmasters.


If you ever get the opportunity to walk up 4 steps, turn into the opening, raise your flag, walk 10 steps to pause then continue on down to line the aisle, make sure to smile just like me.