The buzz of voices from the 500 seventh graders at Prairie Middle School waiting on the bleachers at assembly was enough to
intimidate the coolest of motivational speakers. But as counselor Tami Watkins walked out onto the gym floor, quiet came almost
instantly, "Your teachers heard a speaker who inspired us by what he had to say. We invited him back to share his story with you.
Please welcome Ian Humphrey."
Obviously, Ian had connected with the adults, the authority in the school. I was interested to see how he would inspire these kids.
Ian stepped onto the polished hardboards with a confidence gained from rising to a challenge not one time, but again and again and
again and not just to survive each time, but succeed. I’d seen him tell his story superbly in demanding situations. The last time
I’d heard him speak was in August 2010 at the Toastmasters International Conference at Palm Desert. After the first round he placed
in the top nine speakers in the world, and again the next day, with a different speech, was speaking to 1600 Toastmasters assembled
from 106 countries. At stake was the title of TM’s World Champion Speaker. His passion for the message he brought to Palm Desert
was as hot as the 115 temperature outside.
Ian didn’t win the title, but as a new-to-Toastmasters competitor, he scored an incredible victory. He’d beat he 1-350,000 odds
against making it into the top ten speakers in the world.
Now, here in front of these kids, he had the opportunity to tell his story, to "Ian-spire" them.
"I’m here to talk to you today about three things: one, peer pressure; two, overcoming challenges; and three, never give up … I
didn’t know I could be successful, I thought you were born to either be successful or not, I didn’t know success was a choice."
Ian related his early life with autobiographical matter-of-fact details. Born into the toughest neighborhood in Los Angeles two months
premature when his mom was attacked by a neighbor, after months in the hospital, Ian survived. Three years later, he found and swallowed
a bottle of prescription medicine, went into a coma, doctors didn’t believe he’d recover, again, Ian survived. Because of that incident,
the state blamed his mom and she lost custody of him. He was placed in a foster home where locked inside a closet, he was mentally and
The foster mom would periodically open the door to the dark closet and scream, overflowing