Monday, July 15, 2019

Two Minutes to Talk: IPAHW Speech

I just got back from Indianapolis, where I spent the weekend at IPAHW, or the International Pup and Handler Weekend.

For those just joining us, there's a subculture of people called "human pups" who enjoy emulating dogs.  I hold the title of LA Pup, which is a "feeder" competition for the International Pup title.  I went out to represent my city but without any intention of winning.  (I would have liked second place, though.)  With a baby on the way I really can't commit to a year-long title that requires a lot of international travel.

 Contest aside it was a really wonderful weekend.  
I met so many people who had heard of me and it was very flattering.  
This guy was insanely excited to meet me and his joy was infectious.

There were 16 of us competing and although I did not want to win, I wanted to perform well.  The contest for the title was broken into four parts: a private interview with the judges, a couple of "pop" questions, a two-minute speech, and a performance.  For me, the speech was the most important.  I was being given a platform of two minutes to communicate to an audience of hundreds whatever I wanted.  I wanted to make those seconds count.

Below is my speech, but first, I want to talk about how it went down.  The contest was somewhat disorganized, but it was no one's fault.  Sixteen contestants is a lot, twice as much as prior years, because there used to be two international titles and they were just combined into a single mega-contest.  As a result, things were a bit of a hot mess.  I had drawn #2, putting me right at the beginning of all of the segments.  On Saturday night, I was in my room practicing my speech, when my phone went off.  It was one of the producers, who informed me that due to an emergency schedule SNAFU, the contest had started an hour early.  They had shot off a text message but I had missed it; the contest had already started ten or fifteen minutes ago.

 The contestants.

In a blind panic, I dressed and ran down to the ballroom.  I flung open the doors just in time to hear the MC saying, "Tony Bark isn't here, so--"

"OH, YES I AM!!" I yelled, striding through the audience.  The applause was thunderous; who doesn't love a dramatic entrance?  I climbed onto the stage from the front and reached for the microphone; everyone was laughing, clapping, absolutely delighted.  The timing could not have been more perfect.

I made a joke about being panicked, something about being glad I was wearing dark pants, and then launched into my speech.


Here is is, below.  You might recognize much of it from previous posts where I've said uplifting crap.  This is no coincidence; I combed through this blog for material and tried to distill my best pieces of wisdom into 120 seconds, removed from my own ego, applicable to all experiences. Enjoy!

The "class" of 2019 onstage together.


It’s not a secret that I love superheroes. What’s not to like? The good guys always win. The right people triumph. Justice is served. Unfortunately, we all know that life isn’t quite like that. Life throws us a lot of curveballs. Fortunately, as pups, we love it when balls are thrown.

What being a pup has done for me is helped me realize the best parts of myself. I’d like to take my time to day to talk about those parts. Hope everyone here is ready to hear about my parts!

Being a pup has helped me grow as a person. In a world where the only thing I truly control is myself, I have found that being a pup allows me to emulate the best qualities that I want to see more of within my community. Here are some of those qualities.

It’s helped me find my voice, and know when to use it. It’s taught me to take the time to communicate, learn to ask for help or clarification when I need it, and to consider other viewpoints. It’s given me the courage to admit when I’m wrong. It’s helped me learn that even when I’m angry at or disagree with someone, I can treat them with respect, not as a reflection of who they are, but as a reflection of who I am. It’s kept me fiercely kind and kept my anger from turning to cruelty. It’s taught me to transform regret into action, and to avoid self-judgement and self-abuse. It’s allowed me to avoid taking things personally, and to forgive unintended harm; if you’ve ever stepped on a dog’s paw, you know how easily they can brush off unintended hurt. And for those who wish us intentional harm, I’ve found the strength to fight them in a dignified way, and wish healing instead of hurt.

The best part about pups is that we’re a pack and that every one of us matters. We’re all capable of being great, and doing great things. Some of us haven’t found our capes yet. But we all have that potential, and when we shirk off our doubt and self-consciousness, we can become something truly amazing. It lies in the heart of every pup.

Being loving, forgiving, accepting, and open is to be vulnerable. It’s in being vulnerable that we armor ourselves. It’s in being pups that we find our humanity. And it’s in these moments of uninhibited, inclusive passion for life that we become heroes ourselves, and show the world what it means to live invincibly.

Side note: the kicker to this speech was subtle advertising for my run pins. Traditionally title holders sell "run pins" for the year that they hold a title, to help offset travel costs.

 Available in two designs!  Collect 'em all!

In the end, between my dramatic entrance (which several people thought was staged, though it wasn't) and my speech (which got a TON of applause and so many compliments), I left feeling that I had done my duty in representing my city and bringing something to the table.  The judges were all enthusiast and encouraging, and had a lot of kind things to say.

But I'm glad to be home and relieved to know that my title is drawing to an end, which will let me focus a little less on the "pup community" and more on my own life, including journalism school.

Many congratulations to Sirius, the pup who won.  He's an incredibly active, involved, insightful, and pleasant individual, and I feel that I lost fair and square to the best.

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