Category Archives: Opinion

Roast of Peter Campbell

On the occasion of his 80th Birthday

Saturday 29 July 2017

Ladies and Gentlemen, I stand before you today to roast the man of the hour.  A roast is a humorous look back on the life of a man who has had plenty of time to make plenty of mistakes.  Let’s begin!

My first enduring (injuring?) memory of Peter was at the wedding.  I’m sure we must have met before then, but this is what sticks out for me.  Peter was walking Fiona down the aisle to me.  Previously, Fiona had asked her father for some advice about the ceremony, as she knew she would be nervous and might forget something important.  So, he told her, “it’s easy.  Just remember to walk down the aisle.”

“Ok, I’ll remember, ‘aisle’,” said Fiona.

“Then stop at the altar,” said Peter.

“Ok, I’ll remember, ‘altar’,” said Fiona.

“Then, we’ll sing a hymn,” said Peter.

“Ok, I’ll remember, ‘hymn’,” said Fiona.

It was most disconcerting to me, to hear my bride-to-be, as she was marching down the aisle, repeating over and over under her breath, “aisle-altar-hymn, I’ll alter him!”

I was still recovering from this turn of events, when they both arrived at the front of the church.  Peter looked at me.  I looked at Fiona.  Fiona looked at her Dad.  Then Peter looked at Fiona, I looked at Peter and Fiona looked at me.  I wasn’t sure if he was going to say a few words or not.  So we waited.  This went on for an uncomfortable period of time.  Eventually Peter took the hint and sat down.

My second memory of Peter was about a year later.  We decided to meet up about half-way between Otautau and Wellington, in Picton.  That’s half-way, isn’t it?

Fiona had researched and decided we would do the Queen Charlotte Sound mail-boat run.  It’s a leisurely tourist activity, exploring the nooks and crannies of the Sound.  An unexpected bonus of the trip was visiting a mussel farm, where the skipper took possession of a bucket of fresh mussels.  He was just about to boil them all up for us, when I requested he leave me a few uncooked.  I was happily smashing them open, when I happened to glance up to see Peter’s face.  The look of shock on his face projected the thought, “Into what form of barbarism has my daughter married?”

Our next encounter was on his home turf: the farm.  I’m still not sure to this day whether he was deliberately testing my limits when he suggested we go out on the quad bike.  Of course, that meant he would drive and I would sit in the back trailer.  He eventually looked back at some stage to discover, as he was throttling through the long grasses, my hay-fever had kicked in big time.  I had tears streaming down my face.  Disgusted, Peter took me back to house.

I extracted revenge on my final encounter on the farm; Peter decided to let this townie try to help him move his prize sheep.  “Somehow”, I managed to get in front of the herd.  They went the other way.  Peter sent me home, again.

Peter loves gadgets.  He loves upgrading to the latest and greatest.  Peter and I finally bonded.  He would buy the gadgets, then I would visit and help him set them up.  I’m not saying he’s technologically challenged, but I am saying there was plenty to do to keep me occupied on my one week’s vacation.

Peter has gotten involved in setting up the Otautau Museum.  A fitting place, for a dinosaur.

Peter is a gentleman farmer.  This doesn’t mean he farms gentlemen.  It means he now keeps gentlemen’s hours.

Peter finds it difficult to sleep.  He used to be a banker.  He would lie in bed, counting sheep, but then realised he’d made a mistake.  He’d spend the next four hours trying to find the error.

Peter was asked whether he would organise a special birthday party for his mother’s 90th.  His response?  “Awww, I thought we’d wait until her 100th.”

Ladies and gentlemen, as you know, it is Peter’s 80th birthday.  Please charge your glasses and be upstanding, so we can share a toast to Peter, before it’s too late.

To Peter, Before It’s Too Late!



Accepting the Competent Leader Award

My fellow toastmasters, it is with true gratitude that I accept this award today.

As you know, Toastmasters is a unique organisation, which, for over 90 years, has been teaching people how to give speeches and how to lead meetings.

For those who may not know, Toastmasters achieves this goal by providing a supportive environment for members to give their speeches, and to have their speeches evaluated.  In turn, all other roles during a meeting are also evaluated.  It is this environment of mutual support that enables a club to develop and grow its members.

This award recognizes that I have worked through the Competent Leadership manual.  This manual consists of 10 projects, where a variety of roles are required to be performed and evaluated.

  1. Project 1 tested my Listening Skills, by requiring me to complete basic roles necessary for the successful running of a normal club meeting.
  2. Project 2 tested my Critical Thinking, by requiring me to be able to evaluate other roles.
  3. Project 3 tested my ability to give Feedback.
  4. Project 4 tested my Time Management skills, by successfully completing a Timer role and a significant other role within a meeting, on time.
  5. Project 5 tested my ability to Plan and Implement significant roles.
  6. Project 6 tested my ability to Organize and Delegate by requiring me to help to organize a special club event.
  7. Project 7 tested my Facilitation skills, by requiring me to perform a couple of vital roles in the club meeting.
  8. Project 8 tested my Motivation, by requiring me to perform roles to assist others.
  9. Project 9 tested my Mentoring skills. I especially wish to thank my mentee, Molino Garcia, for allowing me to mentor him.  It was a privilege to be allowed to speak into another member’s life.
  10. Project 10 tested my Team Building skills, by requiring me to give back to the club.

Having now achieved this award, I have the following recommendations for others wishing to achieve it.

  1. If at all possible, you should attempt to get onto the Executive Team. This will afford you opportunities to complete certain roles.
  2. However, even if you are not on the Executive Team, you can volunteer to assist them. In this way, I was able to perform the role of Web Master, even though I wasn’t the Vice President of Public Relations.
  3. There are four competitions during the year: International Speech, Humorous Speech, Table Topics and Speech Evaluations. You should volunteer to be the convenor of one of these competitions.  This role alone will fulfil the entire Project #6.
  4. If you are only one signature away from completing a project, then ask the Vice President Education to assign you that role in the coming month. You are not imposing.  The VP Ed delights in knowing that you are interested in advancing your record.  It is impossible for the Exec Team to know in advance which roles you wish to pursue at any particular time.
  5. And lastly, of course, for every role you fulfil in your club meeting, check your manual to see whether you can get it signed off. Then find somebody to sign it off for you.

Toastmasters is a bit like university, as opposed to school.  You are provided the manual, but it is up to you to proactively manage your own project completion record.  Nobody is going to chase you up to complete your manual.  This is your prerogative.

What comes next?  After the Competent Leader award, comes the Advance Leader Bronze.  In order to achieve this level, one must:

  1. Have fulfilled an Executive Team role for a minimum of 6 months; and
  2. Completed 2 educational speeches of 10 minutes each.

The final person I wish to give heart-felt thanks to, is Warren Christie for shoulder-tapping me to join as a Charter Member of this club in July 2015.  Warren had to convince me that I needed the club, and the club needed me.  I am grateful that he persevered.

We took only 3 months to get up to the 20 members necessary, so that we were able to charter as a fully-fledged club in October 2015.

It has been said that this club is unique, in that our members are motivated to provoke one another to higher levels of achievement.  With a weekly meeting, we are able to fulfil many more roles than most other clubs more quickly.

This award recognizes that I was motivated by others here to achieve.  I am grateful to this club for the opportunities afforded me, and I hope I am an adequate role model to follow.

I have had a few outside opportunities to put into practice, the skills learned here.  I can attest that these skills work, and are appreciated by the outside world.  Personally, I have noticed family occasions in the past were lacking, because nobody was prepared to say a few words.  People do appreciate when somebody has bothered to put some words together to mark a special occasion.

Once again, thank you fellow Toastmasters.  It is a privilege to be presented this award.  I gratefully accept it.

Mr Toastmaster.

In praise of Fiona Hippolite

Fellow Toastmasters

It is my pleasure today to address you about somebody I greatly admire: my wife.  Although to some extent, it is oddly self-serving to speak in praise of one’s own spouse publicly.  After all, the Bible calls us “One Flesh” meaning we are a singular unit.  But praise is something Fiona usually finds difficult to accept, as part of her Scottish heritage, and I know I don’t do it often enough, so this is as good an opportunity to do it as it gets.

Fiona possesses four qualities I wish to share with you.  Some may be known, some may be new to you.

First is her determination to be excellent.  This determination manifests in many ways.  One manifestation is, she has managed to home-school 3 children to academic excellence.  Fiona had to overcome many obstacles in her pursuit of excellence in this field.  Some of the obstacles included:

  1. Lifting her eyes beyond what was considered normal. At the time, home-schooling was not considered a viable alternative to mainstream education, like it is now.  Fiona had to face down challenges from some well-meaning family members, church friends and mother support groups.
  2. Another obstacle was navigating the maze of bureaucracy to even be able to apply for exemption from the Education Act which compels all New Zealand children to be required to attend school. This was an interesting chapter of our lives.  The Application for Exemption requires parents to promise to provide a level of education “at least equal to the average publicly available.”  As it turns out, this wasn’t difficult for her to achieve.
  3. A final obstacle to overcome was determining, from the entire spectrum of Curricula available to us, which particular curriculum she would adopt. From Child-Centred-Learning at one end of the spectrum, right through to Classroom-At-Home, Fiona picked-and-chose those elements which she felt the children would benefit from, would be interested in, and were in alignment with our values.

A second manifestation of Fiona’s quality of Excellence, is her early choice of career.  When I met Fiona, she was a Quality Manager of a large IT company.  This was a highly responsible position.  Her professional mantra of “process of continual improvement” became engrained into a large part of her personality.

A second quality Fiona demonstrates is Generosity.  Fiona is generous in giving of her time, her talents and her finances.  I’ve benefitted greatly from this quality.  But not only is Fiona generous to her family, she is also generous to others.  She has contributed greatly to Christian mission.  She spent 6 months in Southern Africa in 1997, assisting with two Christian conferences, the African Evangelical Alliance first conference in South Africa and GCOWE, the Global Consultation on World Evangelisation.  Fiona was learning to be a new mother of a 7-week-old baby, when we arrived in South Africa.  That she was willing to also give of her time to these two Christian conferences is a testament to her multi-tasking ability!

Fiona has also given and continues to contribute to Shepherds Arms, an orphanage in The Philippines.

A third quality which Fiona possesses is Integrity.  As a personal observation, Fiona demonstrates integrity in that her professional and private lives are wholly integrated.  What you see is truly what you get with her.  There is no hypocrisy in her.  In fact, she would be the first to freely admit, she is usually unable to “play politics” in order to “just get along.”

A fourth quality which Fiona possesses, and the final one I wish to discuss today, is her dedication to Service.  Fiona models this Toastmaster value constantly.  Two examples are:

  1. Fiona has been a budget advisor with Agape Budget Advisory Service. This entailed completing their course to qualify, and then making herself available to mentor clients.  Some clients were easier to deal with than others.  Some people want to be helped, others don’t.  Throughout, Fiona had to maintain a detached professionalism, but I know the personal toll it took upon her to see some clients choose to reject sound advice.
  2. Fiona helped establish a Charitable Trust for the purpose of administering a Christian Health Centre. The Capital Care Health Trust in Wellington would never have been established and operating since 1994, without Fiona’s determination and hard work.  Capital Care Health Centre originally started as a pregnancy counselling service and then began providing General Practice services since 1997.  The Centre is a community-based, affordable, pro-life health centre.

In conclusion, the Toastmasters values of Respect, Integrity, Service and Excellence resonate strongly with Fiona’s own personal values of Excellence, Generosity, Integrity and Service.    Just as the Toastmaster values handily may be abbreviated to an acronym of RISE, Fiona’s values E-G-I-S sound like the word aegis, meaning “the protection, backing, or support of a particular person.”  I believe I could have no better person in my corner, to face life’s challenges with, than Fiona.

I am pleased to be able to recommend to you, my friend and life-time spouse, Fiona Hippolite.


Toastmasters Speech #4

Project 4 – How to say it


  1. Select the right words and sentence structure to communicate your ideas clearly, accurately and vividly.
    1. Write for the ear
      1. Short words
      2. Short sentences
  • Short paragraphs
  1. Be specific
  2. Vivid words
  1. Use rhetorical devices to enhance and emphasize ideas.
    1. Incorporate rhetorical devices
      1. Simile
      2. Metaphor
  • Alliteration
  1. Triads
  1. Use words economically
  1. Eliminate jargon and unnecessary words. Use correct grammar.
    1. Watch for jargon.
    2. Say it correctly
      1. Subject/verb agreement
      2. Misplaced modifiers
  • Misused pronouns

Working Title 1: What to do in the case of an emergency.

Working Title 2: In case of emergency, break glass.

Working Title 3: Break Glass!

Honorifics Mr. Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters & Guests, greetings!
Joke I was at a work Christmas party once.   I was drinking alcohol. Some of my work mates were shocked. They sidled up to me and breathlessly enquired, “James, I didn’t think you drank alcohol?” I dead-panned my response, “It’s not that I don’t drink alcohol. It’s just that I don’t pay for alcohol.”
Link Did you know that you demonstrate your true nature when faced with a crisis situation? In my case, at that time, I used to be cheeky and cheap. I believe I’ve matured since then.
Introduction Have you ever wondered what you would do if faced with a bomb threat? I never did, until it happened to me. It happened like this.

I was visiting Indonesia in July 2001. Remember, that was just 2 months before the attack on the World Trade Centre. I was on a two-week mission, to donate a PC to a Bible College and set up their computer network. While I was living on the premises, the local Muslims phoned in a bomb threat.   I suppose that the neighbours were fairly upset about the presence of a Christian College, despite it being there for over 20 years. Not a shining example of tolerance, was it?

I realised that I had only 3 options available to me:

·         Fight

·         Flight

·         Faith

1st Point By fight, I don’t me turning on the neighbours. What I mean is reacting to the situation in my own strength: going on a hunt to find the threatened bomb. Indeed, there were staff and students doing just that: out of their rooms, looking shocked, worried and concerned.

Imagine yourself in this situation.   It would be natural, as a Christian minority in a Muslim majority country, to be absolutely overcome with fear.   It would be like Jews in Nazi Germany.

I realised that my nice, safe, little country of New Zealand had not prepared me for this level of intimidation.   Despite the pressure I felt, something else in me rejected this option.

2nd Point The second option available to me was the Flight response. I could have left the Bible College and gone to stay in a nice, safe hotel, until my actual flight home. This would have meant rejecting the hospitality of my hosts. It might even have meant leaving behind my meagre possessions (I had brought at least a suitcase of clothes).

This could have been a perfectly reasonable course of action. It is no shame to escape a helpless situation. As Demosthenes said,

“Better to retreat and marshal your forces than to waste a glorious death in sure defeat.”

I realised at this point that there was no way to know for sure whether a bomb actually existed. If it did, there was no way to know for sure where it was in the school. And finally, if it went off, there was no way to know for sure how large would be the blast.

For all these reason, I chose the 3rd option.

3rd Point I decided to have faith in God.   If I died, I died. In the apostle Paul’s inspired letter to the Philippians, he writes “To live is [gain]; To die is gain.” Living, I get to enjoy time with friends and family.   Dying, I get to enjoy eternity with my Lord.

I chose not to live in fear.

I chose not to live with fear.

I chose to live without fear.

I chose to go to bed!

I didn’t feel particularly brave doing this act. I wasn’t deliberately setting out to set an example, or be some great hero, or even to obey my Lord. I was just tired, and wanted to go to bed. My upbringing had not prepared me to deal with this situation, so I was choosing to ignore it.

In the end, it was the right decision. There was no bomb. The threat was merely meant to instil terror.

Message Subsequent to September 11, the world has changed. We are more aware that there are physical forces who despise our way of life. We are more cautious.

But my hope is this: That when faced with the decision whether to fight the situation, or fly from it or exercise faith in the face of it, that I and you would choose to exercise faith more often.

This doesn’t mean refusing to fight injustice. As John Wesley said,

Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.

This doesn’t mean ignoring every threat.

It does mean, weighing my options and trying to determine, what would Jesus do?

Conclusion I entitled today’s speech “Break Glass”. This was a reference to those fire switches besides the doors at public venues which state, “In case of emergency, break glass.” This is so that you can get to the switch and activate it. This is so that you can sound the alarm, and alert people to a serious situation. This is so that they may flee the fire.

But the glass is there for a reason.   It is there to protect the switch against being used casually or accidently. Because there are people who just want to watch the world run around in circles in a panic. It amuses them.

You and I have the opportunity to be that glass. In a world without faith, that only has the fight or flight response left, we get to show them a third way. We get to intercede on their behalf. We get to determine what’s a real fire and what’s an imagined fire.

Summary In summary, the lesson I want you to take away from my experience with the bomb threat is this simple: in order to determine whether a perceived threat is real or imagined, you have to read the BIBLE:

·         Beginners’s

·         Instructions

·         Before

·         Leaving

·         Earth

Thank you, Mr. Toastmaster.

We Have An Eye-Witness

I had a really interesting conversation this week, sitting around at lunch break in the staff dining area. I innocently mentioned a story I heard on the radio. Apparently, you can pay $12,000 to have your ashes sent to the moon. I don’t know whether this is true. But I expressed a preference to turn my ashes into a diamond. It just appeals.

My work colleague immediately moves on from this topic to dismissing any possibility of life after death. This I took as a direct provocation of my worldview, which is widely known at work, and completely off topic.

At first, I let him wax on, unsure where he wanted this conversation to go. Another colleague expressed his cheerful ignorance of what comes next, leaving open any and all possibilities.

I felt in this instance, discretion was the better part of valour, and decided to merely leave a small gem. So I stated, “It depends on your worldview about whether you believe there was an Eye-witness who went there and came back to tell us about it.” This was my subtle reference to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I believe my oblique reference was understood.

There was stunned silence. I took that as my queue to return to work.

Actual Discourse

For Against
It’s an alternative point of view from naturalistic materialism, which brings comfort to many Christianity is too narrow a focus for our pluralistic society.
There is a spiritual hunger, not satisfied in any other way. Conflict with use of time/resources.   Spark shouldn’t be in this business.
Act as conscience (of the company) Harden up
Useful for therapy (improve employee life) We’ve already got HR & EAP
Better to have an opinion and move on, then to wallow in unbelief & inaction. Couldn’t we just exclude the Christianity aspect?
Another method of communication and community within the company.
Aligned, on the same page
Values-based directional counselling has great value.
Good exposure to alternative view increases tolerance. Bad experiences decreases tolerance.

What Would Chaplaincy Offer?

  • Basic Life Principles
    • Boundaries
    • Marriage Course
  • Personal, private confessional (active listening)
  • Directive counselling (talking)
  • Social community
  • Potential measurement: Brand value