Pine Nuts: The best teacher I ever had |

Pine Nuts: The best teacher I ever had

Ms. Moser. What a great lady. She knew what was happening in every time zone, and she understood adolescents better than any adult back when I was an incorrigible adolescent myself. She was our speech teacher in high school when I was deathly afraid of public speaking. I would rather have a coyote gnaw on my arm than to have to speak in public.

Ms. Moser assigned us a three minute speech to deliver to our class, “My Philosophy of Life.” Not one of us freshmen had a philosophy of life, heck, all I cared about was getting my license, a ‘55 Chevy, and maybe a girlfriend if that were possible.

But a funny thing happened. Once I started in on that assignment, which was the night before it was due, well, I started to enjoy fashioning my toddler’s philosophy of life. And once I had begun fashioning that philosophy, I started framing some rules by which to live in order to protect and project my nascent philosophy of life.

The Ten Commandments were too many for me, so I winnowed my tenets down to a handy four, and those four I try to live by even today, thanks to Ms. Moser …

I started framing some rules by which to live in order to protect and project my nascent philosophy of life.

1. Isocaloric Activity: Am I taking in as many calories as I’m burning?

2. Fiscal Responsibility: Am I bringing in as much as is going out?

3. Altruistic Sensitivity: Have I done something today for someone less fortunate?

4. Cultural Alacrity: Have I read a book not written by a dead white man?

I only wish I could take Ms. Moser’s hand today and thank her, for after 20 years in radio I discovered Mark Twain, which afforded me yet another 4,000 opportunities to speak publicly.

I did write Ms. Moser a letter while in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, and thanked her for assigning us a philosophy of life, and assured her in that letter that my life, and those of my comrades, had become more precious when the prospect of losing those lives was a clear and present danger. I wonder today if that letter ever reached her…I hope so.

Fast forwarding, having been in the company of several excellent speakers over the years, I’ve cobbled together a few aids that have been helpful to me, and hope might be useful to you…

People don’t want to hear a message, they want to hear a story. So if you can wrap your message in a story it will be like wrapping your dog’s medicine in a treat.

Work your client’s special interest into your opening remarks.

Work your client’s special interest into the middle of your talk.

In thanking your client, work your client’s special interest into your closing remarks.

A reporter once wanted to interview Arnold Palmer after Arnie had won a tournament, but he was out on the driving range, practicing. Go over your material as soon as possible after delivering it while it’s still fresh in your mind, and make the necessary improvements.

And finally, have confidence that your charity, charm, eloquence, and your high school teacher’s faith in you will see you through.

Then, just before you’re called up to the podium, think about what you’re going to have for breakfast the next morning. This will ground you, let you see past the moment, and put your mind at ease…

Thank you, Ms. Moser…thank you, wherever you are!

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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