2015, Los Vegas, Nevada, USA
[Pretending to light up a cigarette] What? Or you all think smoking kills? Let me tell you something. Do you know that the amount of people dying from diabetes are 3 times as many people dying from smoking? Yet, if I put a snicker bar, nobody would say anything. Do you know that the leading cause of lung cancer is not actually a cigarette, it’s your DNA? You could smoke for years and nothing would ever happen to you. This whole war against smoking is just to restrict the farming of tobacco.
Mr. Contest Chair, fellow Toastmasters and guests, I use these arguments — even though I just made them up — with a group of my friends and the results: five of them believed what I said, two of them started smoking. Words, when said and articulated in the right way, can change someone’s mind. They can alter someone’s belief. You have the power to bring someone from the slums of life and make a successful person out of them, or destroy someone’s happiness using only your words.
Does that seem a bit too good to be true? A simple choice of ‘word’ can make a difference between someone accepting or denying your message. You can have a very beautiful thing to say, but say it in the wrong words and [sssshhh] it’s gone. I have a son who is four, and he had this bad habit of writing on the walls with crayons. And one evening I walked into his room and he’s going at it, just writing and drawing and so on. And I said, “Hey, hey, hey! Are you stupid? Don’t you ever do that again?” And guess what happened. He did it again.
Nobody likes to be threatened. Nobody likes to be intimidated. His pride will not allow it. He did it again just to spite me. A week later, I walked into his room and again, he’s going at it and this time, he was even looking at me, just. I came down, I said “Sweetie, come here. Don’t do that, you’re a big boy now.” And he never did it again, because his pride wants him to be ‘the big boy’.
Have you ever wondered why nobody cares about ‘global warming’? Even though it’s a very serious issue, it could kill all of us, because when you go home and you flip on the TV and you see a scientist trying to talk about global warming, it goes something like this. [Imitating] “Ladies and gentlemen, as you can see from the graphs, that the statistics here – for 2014, it shows the water level is rising. This table shows that the mono-dioxide level and the third ozone layer, is at an alarming position.”
The message never gets across, but most importantly, if you are a person who is a role model – if you’re a person who has been admired, anything you say could be believed, anything you utter could be taken as truth. My friend Nasser, he loved his father, idealized his father, he would do anything to make him happy, but his father was the kind of person who was not easy to impress and year after year Nasser tried and his father’s like ‘no’. First year in college, Nasser had got straight A’s and he thought to himself this is it, this is what will finally make my dad proud. He picked up the phone, he called his dad, “Dad, I got straight A’s. Are you proud? Please tell me you are proud father.” “Yeah, listen son, I’ll have to call you back, I’m busy.”
‘I’m busy’, was the single sentence that broke the Camel’s back. And he started drinking, doing drugs, hanging out with the wrong crowd. Nasser why? Why are you throwing your life away? If the one person in the world that I care about the most doesn’t care then, then why should I. And one evening I got the phone call, Nasser is in the emergency room, drug overdose. I rushed to that hospital. I saw him on that bed and I saw that machine go beep, beeep, beeeeeeeep. And I saw doctors try to bring him back to life. Clear, [ssphhh] clear [sssphhh], clear [sssphhh] — it’s clear that a single word could have saved his life.
Words have power, words are power, words could be your power. You can change a life, inspire your nation and make up this world a beautiful place. Isn’t that what we all want it? Isn’t that why we are all in this hall? Your mouth can spit venom or it can mend a broken soul.
Ladies and gentlemen, let that be our goal. Contest Chair. Contest Chair: All right, then shortly, we’ll hear from our winner at this year. Please welcome to the stage first place in our Championship Mohammed Qahtani. And just one moment, we’ll hear from Mohammed. All right, let’s hear from the first place winner Mohammed. Mohammed Qahtani: I did not know, it’s this big. Ladies and gentlemen, when we did the semifinals and I won — they asked me to say something. And I said, honestly, I didn’t prepare anything because I did not expect to win.
And I’m coming here today and again, I did not expect to win. But I want you to think about what are your challenges and what are the things that you think is impossible, because this was impossible. Not just for me, but for almost everybody who knows me. And yet here it is, I don’t want to say it again, but if I can do this, think about that thing that you thought you could never do. Or you just gave up on because, maybe it’s way up ahead and I cannot do it. And when you do, I want you to remember that Mohammed Qahtani got this. I sure — and also you can do the same. Thank you.