Pita’s Dream (Competent Communication #4: How to Say It)

“It took me 20 years to get here.” Pita Taufatofua stood in front of a national audience. His eyes lighted up. He was ready to tell his story, before he was interrupted. He tried again, but got too uncomfortable, as news anchors giggled while they rubbed coconut oil against his chest.

Perhaps he was invited to the show not because of his achievement or his story, but because of his appearance. You might have recognized him in the Opening Ceremony of the Summer Olympics. He was the guy who proudly bore the flag of Tonga while wearing the traditional “tupenu wrap.” His bare chest was coated with shiny coconut oil. His pictures and videos had gone viral. Overnight, he had became an “international sensation.”

That was not why he was there. He was there to pursuit his dream and see his years of perseverance paying off.

Pita grew up in Tonga, which is a small country and not a rich one. He had to save up just to have a snack sandwich once in a while. His family of nine lived in a one-bedroom house for years. Poverty did not deter him from becoming very good at Taekwondo, a kind of martial art, though. He wanted to be one of the world’s best and compete with them at the Olympics. But it was not easy.

In 2004, he was ready to compete. However, he had to sit out because Tonga had no money to send him to the qualifier in Thailand.

In 2008, he entered the competition with a fractured bone in one foot and a sprained ankle, but kept fighting. Nevertheless, during a match, a lump on his foot burst. He ended up in a wheelchair for 6 months.

In 2012, he saved up and went to Korea. He trained with his trainer in the middle of the night at a school. They had to get out before school started in the morning. Unfortunately, he entered the competition again with a torn knee ligament. He fought with 1 leg, but he lost, and he couldn’t walk for 3 months afterward.

In 2016, it could be his last chance at entering the Olympics. He worked full-time to fund his training while training hard. His team barely got enough money to travel to Papua New Guinea. Fortunately, he won against New Zealand’s athlete to earn a spot in the Olympics.

That was why he was at the Olympics. He was there to fulfill his dream, Pita’s dream.

What about your dreams? Does it seem so far away that it would take two decades or more to get there? Do the setbacks hurt like something inside you breaks? If so, please hang in there. Pita has made his dream come true. With time and persistence, you can make your dreams come true too.


Background

I got the idea of this speech while watching Today Show. While I enjoyed the show in general, I could not help but feel a bit disappointed by this particular episode. Pita was an Olympics athlete after all, but he was shown on the show like an entertainer, while the news anchor would not even let him tell his story of personal triumph and achievements.

Since Pita seemed to want his story to be told, and I needed an idea for a speech, the situation was a win-win.

Preparation

Project 4 (How to Say It) is much different from the first three. For the first three projects, if one has college-level writing skills and writes the speech just like writing a short essay, he/she will probably do fine. Not so for Project 4, though, as it almost requires one to consciously incorporate elements (e.g. vivid words, rhetorical devices) to satisfy the project’s requirements. Storytelling works really well with this project, because these elements help you tell a great story anyway.

This speech was not done for my first Competent Communication manual, but my fourth. I did not like the one I that originally did very much, mainly because I though it was not a good match for the project. A good thing about the speech manuals is that if you are not completely satisfied with your first attempt at a project, you can always voluntarily come back to redo it, either by reusing a previously given speech or by recreating a new one. No, you are not “wasting” anything if you end up learning something new.

At first, the speech was just about Pita’s story. Later, I modified the conclusion to relate the speech to the audience. After all, I felt that there should be something in the speech that satisfies the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) of the audience.

Since the speech included events that happened in 4 distinct years, I planned ahead to walk sideway each time I transitioned to the next year, as if I was taking a step forward in an imaginary timeline.

Feedback

I have reused and given this speech several times, and the audiences liked it. Several things, such as the “timeline” movement, worked well as mini-breaks to separate events that happened in separate years.

My evaluator pointed out that when I mentioned Pita’s pain from his injuries, I could have expressed the pain with my body gestures and facial expressions. I thought it was a good point and incorporated it in my subsequent speeches.

I have also rewritten the speech’s opening, to focus less on the news anchors’ lack of professionalism, and to focus more on Pita’s eagerness to tell his story. After all, the speech is not about the news anchors but about Pita.