Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dancing With the Stars?

On Monday evenings, people all over the country tune their TV sets to ABC TV to watch the popular show “Dancing With the Stars” where celebrities are paired with professional dancers to the delight of the audience. There is emphasis on the music, the artists, the panel of judges; even the skimpy costumes!

Not everyone tunes in. There is a dedicated group of men who are incarcerated at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution who prepare a meeting room by heating water for coffee. They hang a banner and its accompanying ribbons. One will find an interesting new word for increasing vocabulary and they will prepare a list of duties to be performed at the gathering; they match names to duties in an organized, well orchestrated manner.

When it is time for the Toastmaster meeting to begin, men stream in across the yard from their housing units to come for a couple of hours of education and social time. The men are not the only ones who attend. There are three women who arrive through the Gatehouse to be a part of the meeting. Technically, the women are considered to be guests. None of the three considers herself a guest, however. We all three think we are just “another one of the guys.”

While Tom Bergeron and Samantha Harris host their program, we have a Toastmaster who also serves as a host, with the help of his General Evaluator, Parliamentarian, Timer, Table Topics Master and, of course ,Speakers and Speech Evaluators.

As the panel of judges on Dancing With the Stars-Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, and Bruno Tonioli-doles out numbered scores, the evaluators in the meeting of LibOrators are diligently offering helpful, thoughtful, constructive evaluations to help others improve their speaking skills. By doing so, the evaluators are incrementally working their way through Leadership Manuals.

Having said that, the reality is--there is little comparison to the two activities. One is sheer entertainment. The other has much more value and that value is for the long term.

“Our” guys will take the speech projects, one at a time in any order they choose, and they will build a skill set that will serve them in their daily lives FOREVER. They will use their leadership to influence other prisoners in positive, constructive, helpful ways. For the Toastmaster members who make it to the streets, they can hold membership in clubs and continue their personal development for as long as they live! That is a long term plan!

As for Monday nights, our Area Governor, Irene Jones, and new member Velda Koehler and I will continue to wait patiently at the Gatehouse to be escorted to the meetings. When we are returned from the club’s activity, we will continue to gather outside to brag “our” guys up, note their progress and whether their shirttails were tucked in or their pants were pressed…and we will continue to be their motherly-or grandmotherly-cheering squad.

We could be anywhere on Monday nights. We could park on our sofas with big bowls of popcorn to be entertained by ballroom dancing. But that would never do for any of the three of us. We think the REAL entertainment lies in participating in the Monday night meetings of LibOrators 986233 at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution. We are so proud of our association with this club and we laud its members, as well as the Club Coordinator, for all the personal growth and development it has been our pleasure to witness over the past few years.

In our considered opinion, for Monday night’s lineup, the REAL STARS appear on TSCI-NE, not ABC-TV!

Connie Baum


  1. I love that the Toastermasters help to build up the lives of those who are in prison. It gives them the skills that will help to turn their lives around when they get out.

    I love that you, and the others are so dedicated to teaching and encouraging those positive steps towards a productive life outside of prison; keep up the good "work".

    I know that you do what you do because you love it; and, because you genuinely love those that you do it for. To see them grow and become confident in their appearance, and in their speaking skills, is a wonderful thing.

    Your entertainment is good clean fun and it empowers these men to change the course of their lives from a place of self-destruction to one of accomplishment. Keep doing what you do!


  2. Rainy, I think you should have your very own PomPoms because you are such an ardent cheerleader! Thank you for your love and your support.

    Any time you want to send something to enlighten "my" guys, I will present it to them on your behalf. You do have a way with words!

    Mother Connie

  3. They love you so much and appreciate that you make the time to spend with them. Sure does give a person some self worth - AND they learn to think and speak and gain confidence! What a deal! You're doing good stuff.

  4. Thanks so much for your support and the kudos, kiddo! I think you need pom poms, too; just like writeasrain's...I'll get right on that!

    Mother Connie


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