Find Your Voice

The first time I stood before an audience. I opened my mouth, and nothing came out. Absolutely no sound. The program director came on stage clapping and shouting: “Encore, Encore.” She looked at me, smiled, and said: “Do it again.”

I did. Audibly. I was 6 years old.

In Dr. Zaharna’s Communication Theory seminar at American University, I opened my mouth, and nothing came out. It didn’t matter that I was now a journalist covering energy and business news on Capitol Hill. It didn’t matter that I had White House press credentials. That I attended press conferences with heads of states, interviewed world leaders. I opened my mouth, and nothing came out.

Under Dr. Zaharna’s direction I received my first top paper award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). Other top paper awards followed. I went on to complete my doctorate in Human Communication Studies at Howard University with a teaching assistantship, honing my craft while teaching Principles of Speech. Several fellowships, awards, and grants followed… SYLFF Fellow, Patricia Robert Harris Fellow, Korean Research Institute Fellow, Department of Defense HBCU Fellowship, and two Fulbright Awards to name a few.

Many people fear public speaking. I have the highest degree of speech anxiety ever documented. It happens less these days. When it does what I choose to hear is “Encore, Encore, do it again.”