"The unprepared speaker has a right to be afraid."
- Dr.Ralph C.Smedley
The story of Ralph Smedley’s early work with Toastmasters is a testimony to insight and tenacity. While working for the YMCA, he discovered that many young men were tongue-tied and awkward in their presentations. To help them improve, he created a club where they could practice public speaking in an atmosphere of acceptance and assistance. The idea was a success – the young men’s skills improved. However, the club was not self-sustaining. Four times, Dr. Smedley was transferred by his employer, and each time a club he left behind eventually died. After 16 years, he was finally transferred to Santa Ana, California, where his concept of self-sustaining clubs for the practice and improvement of public speech grew into reality, establishing a strong-enough foothold to thrive on their own.
Dr. Smedley established Toastmasters as “a nonprofit, noncommercial movement, for the benefit of its members,” and never made a penny from his creation. He worked for the YMCA until retirement at the age of 63 and then volunteered his services to Toastmasters until shortly before his death at 87.