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Overcoming all obstacles
“Greatness is not measured by looking at where you are today. Greatness is measured by looking at where you came from to get to where you are. The bigger the delta, the greater the person.”
Mohammed A. Al Qahtani, a business systems analyst working as a Security Engineer at Saudi Aramco, who overcame significant speech difficulties as a child, became the first Muslim to win the World Championship in Public Speaking in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the U.S. on Aug. 15.
He competed against 30,000 participants from about 100 countries after several elimination rounds that began six months before. The Aramcon earned top honors in the world for his speech "The Power of Words" at the annual World Toastmaster's Convention. The organization has more than 313,000 members in more than 14,650 clubs in 126 countries. The championship is the highest level of speech competition in Toastmasters, and his victory in the contest is the first time an Arab has won this title in the 84 year existence of annual world competitions for the organization.
Al Qahtani represented District 79, which comprises 243 clubs in all of Saudi Arabia, and he faced off against national champions representing various nations from around the world in an effort to be named the world champion of public speaking...!
It was not an easy road for Al Qahtani to get to this point. He faced many difficulties, and his journey to reach this highly coveted and beautiful accomplishment is truly amazing and inspiring. As a child, he did not utter his first word until he was 6 years old. He also grew up with a speech impediment — stuttering — and was ridiculed for it by other children during his formative years. "Your mouth can spit venom, or it can mend a broken soul," Al Qahtani said.
In 2009, he joined Toastmasters and devoted himself seriously to the Toastmasters educational learn-by-doing communication and leadership program. He worked sincerely to overcome his speech impediment, and because of his determination and the support of those around him, he succeeded.
Acknowledging this, Al Qahtani said when receiving his award in Las Vegas: “Look where I am now. If this can happen to me, imagine what can happen to you”.
Al Qahtani demonstrated the best example of facing his speech difficulty head on and did not let that hold him back or make him shy away from public speaking. Not only did he overcome stuttering, but he rose to be a champion on the world stage by winning the world championship of public speaking.
To get to this point, Al Qahtani won his club level speech contests against other Toastmasters in his club. Then, he won against other Toastmasters club champions on the area level. Finally, he achieved the following on the Division M level — which is the highest level of competition for all Aramco Toastmasters clubs:
• 1st Place Winner — International Speech Contest
• 1st Place Winner — Humorous Speech Contest
• 1st Place Winner — Evaluation Speech Contest
From there, Al-Qahtani then went on to compete nationwide against champions from all over Saudi Arabia and became the District 79 Champion in the Humorous Speech Contest, and he earned second place in the International Speech Contest.
The International Speech Contest is the only Toastmasters contest that is competed for worldwide. When the 2015 winner of the District International Speech competition dropped out, Al-Qahtani was granted the opportunity to compete on the world stage as the runner up.
His success and trajectory has been an inspiration for all who know him. Congratulations Mohammed! Your achievements are significant and impressive. We are proud of you. You are a powerful inspiration to us all.
Here is the full 7 minute championship winning speech with introduction: