Tonight, I was reminded of a speech I recently wrote for a speech contest. No, I was not even a finalist in the contest (Speculation has informed me that previous years’ finalists had all tied in somewhere, somehow, that Japan is amazing and totally the best place ever. Seeing as mine has none of that in it, guess I had no chance at all, if that actually is a factor in the contest.), and I’m okay with that. It wasn’t my best work, though it was a decent run for a rushed 45 minutes (including editing with a friend) around 10:30 on a Wednesday night, and on a topic I felt could have been significantly better stated (“Anything that deepens global understanding, other than political, religious, or commercial themes”).
I’ve put the speech below, however, let me say why I thought of the speech. I ended up going dancing tonight, as a follow-up to a bizarre sending off for a friend (literally ran up to the friend on the street, walked the three minutes to the station, and parted ways), because I didn’t want to have spent $15 and an hour and a half for only four minutes of moderate enjoyment, and I neither had other plans for the evening nor work in the morning.
While at this dance thing, I delighted in the constant flow of English-to-French-to-Japanese-to-Frech, the forever exchanging of dance partners, and the true enjoyment of our unity and opportunity for us all to be together and at such ease. As a group, we have little else in common when you remove the dancing. But it is something we each learned in our home towns and cultures, which has now brought us together from many places around the world (really, I think we almost all were from different places, although some were just from different parts of Japan). And, even though we might never have come to know one another in any other part of life, we still ended up spending time together as though we were some of the best of friends.
I had met most of these people only once or twice, but that is the power of partner dancing. We work together in an intimate yet comfortable setting, one-on-one, to create something beautiful. We help each other learn, and we share what we have learned with one another. It’s like the best kind of school, in dance form.
Anyway, that’s all I have to say about that for now, so I leave you with my speech here:
My name is Hannah, and I do partner dancing. Every dance competition, I am terrified walking out onto that dance floor – “I am going to mess up! And in front of all of these people!” I cry inside my head. But, every time, I dance anyway. I give it my best, knowing that I will make mistakes (which I do), and I have an amazing time. Not to mention, I regularly place and even win the contests. Every single time I am grateful that I danced, even though I was terrified, but especially because I made loads of mistakes. Why? Because that is who I am. I am a beautiful, confident dancer who makes mistakes all the time. And every time I do make mistakes, I work with my partner to use them, and to transform them into something beautiful and intentional. We do the same when my partner makes mistakes, too. We work together to turn something accidental and potentially dangerous into something intentional, unique, and beneficial to the overall dance. When we do this, we each learn how the other responds to errors, as well as how to adapt ourselves to work with those responses. By the end of our three-to-four minutes together, we move flawlessly – any onlooker might think we had been partners for years. Why? Because we worked together on something difficult, ever listening to one another.
Marianne Williamson, an American writer, said that ‘our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate’, but that ‘we are powerful beyond measure.’ When we allow ourselves to make mistakes, we are opening up the doors that have been holding us back in life, and we give ourselves the chance to become greater than we ever expected, by learning something new about ourselves and about those around us. When I make a mistake dancing, I not only learn how I respond to error, but also how my partner responds to my making the error. Plus, my partner learns how I respond to error. Then, when we both work together to resolve the issue, we learn new ideas from each other, and we grow together, becoming more efficient and more powerful as individuals and as a couple.
So, what does this have to do with deepening global understanding? Every time I travel, I feel a sense of solitude and of being completely lost in this new world around me. And every time I go dancing in this new place, I not only feel at ease, but part of this new world around me. Every time it is terrifying. Not because I suspect it to go poorly, but because I know that there is no limit to how amazing an experience it can turn out to be. I have lived in various countries these past several years, and every time some of my best friends have come out of dancing. Why? Because not only do we love dancing, but we regularly make mistakes together, and we always work together to solve them. And, in the process of making these friends, I have learned through them more about their culture than any class or book could have taught me.
In conclusion, if you want to deepen your understanding of the world, and better it through understanding one another, and learning from mistakes together, I invite you all to dance. Thank you.