DON'T SPEAK JUST TO HEAR YOURSELF TALK.
Several months after completing my journey of China's Great Wall, I received an invitation to share my adventure with eight hundred professional engineers in Houston, Texas. The Association of Engineers agreed to pay my expenses plus a speaking fee and I quickly accepted their gracious invitation.
Before beginning my presentation---luncheon guests, seated in the Ritz Carleton’s largest ballroom, were treated to a visual prelude. More than two thousand photos from My Great Wall Adventure flashed continuously across the room’s multiple screens, officially documenting my long journey of China’s Great Wall. Setting the mood for my upcoming presentation, the Great Wall images were accompanied by authentic Chinese music.
Following my presentation, I invited audience members to ask questions. One after another, engineers from almost every state in America stepped forward to ask a variety of questions about my journey, including: what I ate, what I thought about, who I met, the language barrier, even questions about Chinese spiders and snakes. Just when I thought I had answered all the questions, an attractive gentleman-- probably mid-forties-- walked to a microphone near the back of the ballroom. Smiling confidently, he addressed me:
“Honey, I found your presentation quite impressive. You are a great speaker and I really enjoyed the photographs but----I have one, very serious concern.” Surprised, not knowing what to expect, I held my breath. “How could you have traveled that wall in 1990? It’s been officially documented that several years before 1990, President Ronald Reagan ordered Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down that Wall and… he did!” At that moment, had a pin dropped, it would have struck the floor like a crow bar. Barely breathing, the audience waited for my response.
Wearing my best beauty queen smile, I leaned into the microphone and, in true southern belle fashion, delivered these words, “Honey, I’m really glad you enjoyed the slide show. I truly appreciate your concern and your knowledge of such important facts. But, Honey... you are talking about the Berlin Wall over in Germany!” As the room echoed with thunderous applause the well-dressed gentleman--- looking like a whipped hound dog with his tail between his legs---scurried out of the Ballroom.
The following year, the National Engineers Association sent me a Christmas card. The association president added a postscript:
“I thought you’d like to know--- the engineer who appeared “geographically challenged” resigned from our association.” The president added: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, then to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”