Evaluation of a Dysfunctional Family

Now that I am not going forward to the NZ Toastmasters national speech competition, I can share with you this speech which I put forward for consideration.  I won my club competition and came third in my area contest.

Evaluation of a Dysfunctional Family


  • My premise is simple: There are no perfect families. In the beginning with Adam and Eve, even though they had a perfect Father, they still managed to go off the rails!
  • Therefore, there is always capacity to grow, and we can all learn from the mistakes of others.
  • So, what lessons have I learned from my family of origin?
  • To evaluate them, I’m going to use a little technical called Commendation, Recommendation & Commendation, or CRC for short. You may have heard of it.
  • I hope to leave you encouraged that no matter your circumstances, it’s possible to turn any situation around.

My Mother – June Noreen Hippolite (nee Gray)

  1. Commendation
    Mum raised 6 children, virtually alone, until when I was 5, when she was left actually alone, by divorce. She was a housewife & homemaker.  She chose to subsume her own desires to make sure her kids were always well fed, adequately clothed and prioritising school.
  2. Recommendation
    In later life, she became very insular (inward focussed) and fearful of going out, almost becoming a shut-in. She needed to continue to engage with the wider community.
  3. Commendation
    As an adult, she completed her School Certificate English, and also took up pottery. She usually demonstrated a desire for more learning.  She usually had at least one book open at all times.

My Father – John Te One Hippolite

  1. Commendation
    Dad had great life experiences. He tried many jobs (more about this later).  He raised his sons with great confidence to deal with any problem.  If you had a problem with one of us, that’s you problem, not mine!
  2. Recommendation
    He should have stuck around for his first marriage. Would have been good if he’d decided to stick around early in his marriage too, instead of always being away, either sheep sharing or labouring, or a soldier in Korea, or a psychiatric nurse, or farming.
  3. Commendation
    He had great passion to challenge The System. He marched with HART against the 1981 Spring Bok tours, until faced up against his 2 police sons.  At that point he resolved to fix the system from within by switching from Black Activist to Social Worker.

My Siblings

  1. Commendation
    They’ve all supported various political parties, either by standing as candidates, or in one case, actually being elected an MP. Collectively, we’ve stood for: Labour, National, Act, The Maori Party, Christian Coalition and Conservatives.  They are each passionate in their beliefs.
  2. Recommendation
    Sometimes it can be hard to get alongside them, as our strong passions colour everything we do, think, feel & say. We need to extend more grace to one another.
  3. Commendation
    All are productive members of society; some might say pillars. Most have got a tertiary qualification; the one that doesn’t is an amazing out-doors-man.

Lessons from Mum

  1. Divorce sucks. Speaking as a child of divorce, I can honestly say, it’s better to have a dysfunctional parent around, than not.  Therefore I resolved that the word “Divorce” was simply not an option.  It was never to be spoken, in jest or in the heat of argument, in my own marriage.
  2. Mother sowed the thought that education is a personal and societal virtue. Therefore I got a degree, and I resolved that my children would be strongly encouraged to take advantage of tertiary study, if they so desired.
  3. I resolved that community engagement (whether as a board member of a health trust, neighbourhood group, home education network, Toastmasters or church board) is something which I have modelled to my kids.

Lessons from Dad

  1. Even though Dad was a man’s man, he never had any problem expressing his feelings to me. Therefore I resolved to always tell my kids how much I loved them.
  2. Dad modelling political activism. Therefore I resolved to always stand up for what I believed in, and engage politically whenever possible.
  3. I resolved that I would not be away from my wife for longer than 2 weeks. Otherwise, where possible, one of us would travel to be with the other.

Lessons from my Siblings

  1. My siblings are part of the reason why I stayed on the straight and narrow. Two of my brothers were police.  One of my sisters is a lawyer.  I was scared of breaking the law.  Therefore I resolved to raise my children as law abiding citizens.
  2. My siblings can be hard to relate to. Therefore I resolved to teach my children to respect differences, while staying true to your own core values.
  3. The accomplishments of my siblings make me feel proud. Therefore I resolved to be a man my children would look up to, too.


  • It should come as no surprise: You are the sum of your parts: biology and conditioning; both nature & nurture.
  • Being raised as a Hippolite has its challenges. Not every family is so political or educationally driven or just plain busy!
  • But the rewards so far have been great. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson (who said it before Steven Covey):
    • Sow a thought and you reap an action;
    • Sow an act and you reap a habit;
    • Sow a habit and you reap a character;
    • Sow a character and you reap a destiny.



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