Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Brief History of District 51

There are over 80 Districts around the world by regions. Each District has its own annually elected or appointed District officers starting with Area Governors, Division Governors to District Governor to help Toastmasters International provide admistration support and leadership role in helping Toastmasters Clubs meet their members educational needs and in chartering more Toastmasters Clubs. OK, these are not the exact words used for the Vision and Mission of a District if you read the official manuals but you get the drift.

Before District 51 was formed in 1993, there was already a District 75 which covered all the Clubs in Philippines. It was the only Asian District then. There were 3 Districts in Australia and 1 District in New Zealand. One District covering the countries in the Southern Africa, 1 District in United Kingdom and 1 District for Mexico. The rest were Districts of North America which covered USA and Canada.

Today there are more Asian Districts including Japan, Taiwan, China, Middle East and a third District for Southeast Asia ie District 80. There is a new District coming up in India too.

Before a District is allowed to be formed by Toastmasters Board of Directors, that geographical region must have a minimum of clubs to first form a Territorial Council.

A Territorial Council called "PANSEA" (Pan Southeast Asia) was formed for clubs in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia with Gerald Green as the first Territorial Council Chairman. There were objections from some Toastmasters in Singapore as there was an existing Coucnil in Singapore which later became the Singapore Federation of Toastmasters Clubs (SFTC). Anyway, Toastmasters International had requested that both Malaysia and Singapore to disband their individual councils and set up a joint Pansea Territorial Council together with Clubs in Thailand and Indonesia.

In Nov 30-Dec 2, 1990, the first inaugural Pansea Territorial Council Convention was held at Hyatt Saujana, Subang in Selangor. It was organized by the Perdana Toastmasters Club. Seven of us from National Semiconductor Toastmasters took a train from Penang to join the Convention and to meet other Toastmasters Clubs.

KS Lim was Club President and I was VP Education. We were surprised by the sharp "political" divide between some Singapore and Malaysia Toastmasters "blocks". We were just there for speech contests, workshops, karaoke session, learning and fun and not politics. SH Choo of Butterworth Toastmasters won the Speech Contest. Foo Say Wei of Singapore was voted to be the second Territorial Council Chairman.

In 1993, Toastmasters International gave us a provisional District status and we were called District 51P.

The "P" attached was like a beginner driving license. Our Club members now have to pay a higher semi-annual dues to Toastmasters International than before as undistricted clubs. For your information, part of our semi-annual dues are diverted to our District fund for District activiites like training, Area Governor visits, speech contests, Council meetings, travel subsidy by officers.

But we were not immediately accorded full District privileges like that the top 3 District Officers getting a free air ticket to Toastmasters International Convention for District officer training and that our District International Speech Contest champion could proceed beyond District level to the Inter-District and if placed first, could continue to the finals of the World Championship of Public Speaking.

So for 3 years, we "suffered" with the "P" tag.

Then at Toastmasters International St. Louis Convention in August 1996, the Board of Directors announced that District 51P is now full District 51 backdating to July 1, 1996. Both Augustine Lee and I were at that meeting hall and we "jumped with joy".

At the Malacca Semi-Annual Convention Nov 1996, there was a special ceremony to drop the "P". The following year in 1997, it was the first time the District 51 Governor, LGET and LGM got free air tickets and could attend the District officer training in the New Orleans Convention. I was DG then but I had previously had to pay my own when I was LGM at San Diego Convention and as LGET at St. Louis Convention. And we were not allowed to enter training rooms in those days and so learnt everything from the manuals. Now wonder in those days, there was less Toastmasters who wanted to be top 3 District Officers. So the top 3 officers these days are "luckier".

In August 1997, at the New Orleans Convention, Club President of Hong Kong Toastmasters Andy See proposed that Hong Kong to join District 51 for faster growth and enjoy the benefits of being in a District. I agreed with the idea. Both of us visited Toastmaster International World Headquarter at Missien Viejo, outside Los Angeles after the Convention.

We had lunch with Toastmasters International Executive Director Terrence McCann. Terrence agreed with our proposal to include Hong Kong and advised us how to go about it. First, Andy See had to sell the idea to all the 5 current Hong Kong Clubs. Then District 51 had to agree at the next District 51 Concil Meeting and the Board of Directors had to approve and announce the decision.

Due to Andy See's foresight and hard work and even though only 3 clubs agreed, it was a smooth sailing as the motion was passed unanimously at our 5th District 51 Convention in Kuching in May, 1998. Toastmasters International later announced that Hong Kong would be part of District 51 as of July 1, 1998. I had to add that in 1996-97, 1997-98 we were ranked No.2 in the world as President's Distinguished District being outflanked by the District 34 (Mexico) and District 75 (Philippines) respectively in the last minute. But after the addition of Hong Kong, we were unbeatable, much stronger and dynamic in club growth and educational achievement and became World No. 1 District for the next 5 consecutive years.

In 2001, Brunei and Macau were added into District 51.

1n 2004, after 11 years together, our District was reformed (split) into two. Since there were more clubs in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, we retained the number 51. Clubs in Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong were given the number 80 and now called District 80.

The reason was that we have grown too large with too many clubs to run a District effectively and efficiently and two Districts means double opportunities for leadership roles and contest spots. Anyway, we were split.

At the Medan Convention in November in 2007, another resolution was passed at the District Concil to propose another reformation (split) into two Districts: 1) Peninsular Malaysia and 2) Sarawak, Sabah, Brunei, Indonesia. Ironically, as we charter more and more clubs, District 51 has gotten smaller and smaller.

Hope one day, this trend will change direction where all the Districts in Asia can form a new region where we can Regional Conferences like what is happening for the Districts of North America in Canada and USA. Hope that Mandarin Speaking Clubs would be allowed to form their own District and have their own Mandarin speaking District Governor like the the Spanish speaking District of Mexico. Hope that that Toastmasters International will create a new Asian Region of Districts. In any case, District 51 has come a long way and the story continues to unfold....

Click here: Past District 51 Convention Photos (1993-2008)

Honor List of District 51 Governors
2009 Richard Chong (Mas Mawar, Selangor)
2008 Joseph Gomez (MIM KL, Kuala Lumpur)
2007 Chee Keng Kok (Butterworth, Penang)
2006 Sivanganam Rajaretnam (Kulim, Kedah)
2005 Low Yat Seow (D'Utama Advanced, Selangor)
2004 A. Arulnathan (MIM KL, Kuala Lumpur)
2003 Ho Fong Ming (Taman Indrahana, Selangor)
2002 John Lau (Kuching, Sarawak)
2001 Lilian Lau (Tanglin, Singapore)
2000 Christopher Teo (NOL, Singapore)
1999 Maimunah Natasha (Jakarta, Indonesia)
1998 Adeline Leong (Kota Kinabalu, Sabah)
1997 SL Liew (Butterworth, Penang)
1996 Dunstan Chan (Kuching, Sarawak)
1995 Augustine Lee (Lion City, Singapore)
1994 Li Yo Wei (Lutong, Sarawak)
1993 Kelvin Ong (SIM I, Singapore)

Distinguished District Awards
2008 President's Distinguished (No. 6, 87.95 points)
2007 President's Distinguished (No. 6)
2006 President's Distinguished (No. 4)
2005 - not distinguished -
2004 President's Distinguished (No. 4)
2003 President's Distinguished (No. 2)
2002 President's Distinguished (No. 1)
2001 President's Distinguished (No. 1, 110.62 points)
2000 President's Distinguished (No. 1, 109.36 points)
1999 President's Distinguished (No. 1, 131.76 points)
1998 President's Distinguished (No. 1, 142.88 points)
1997 President's Distinguished (No. 2, 169.84 points)
1996 President's Distinguished (No.2)

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