My Stretch Speech

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I have the opportunity to give my first speech today as part of Toastmasters.  The speech assignment is called Ice Breaker.  The speech requires me to introduce myself to the local Toastmasters chapter in four to six minutes.  My speech is called Stretch.  Here it is:


That’s my nickname, and it’s the theme of my life.

I was born six weeks early at the DuPage County Hospital in Winfield, Illinois. I weighed in at a “hefty” six pounds thirteen ounces. Before I left the hospital, I was less than six pounds. From this point on, my life has been all about stretching.

When I was eight years old, our family moved across the country to Mount Holly, New Jersey where my Dad took a job as a pastor at a Presbyterian Church in town. The move to New Jersey was life changing. I stretched into a new neighborhood, a new school environment, and into a deeper awareness of life.

When I entered high school at Rancocas Valley Regional High School, I was an average kid. I wasn’t short, and I wasn’t all that tall. I wasn’t super athletic, and I wasn’t completely clumsy. In my high school years, I excelled in band where I was the lead saxophone in various bands starting with my freshman year. I also excelled academically where math and science became a clear passion.

At the beginning of my junior year of high school, I stood at five feet six inches. I weighed one hundred and twenty pounds. I wondered if I would ever grow. And then it started. I stretched. And I stretched. And I stretched some more. When I finished high school, I was six feet one inch.

And my stretching continued into my college years. I traveled across Pennsylvania to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering at Grove City College. The academics stretched me, and the social aspects of college stretched me as well. I jumped into many campus activities and groups, and I eventually took on many leadership roles in these groups. Towards the end of my time at Grove City, I also met a beautiful young lady who captured my heart.

I graduated from Grove City and eventually asked this young lady to be my wife. I recall our first year of marriage with great fondness, but I also remember this time as a period of stretching as we both adjusted to married life while living in Hatfield, Pennsylvania.

A year and a half after our wedding, we welcomed our first child, a daughter. Hannah’s arrival stretched me to become less self-focused and more focused on others. She stretched me to make sure family and faith remained a top priority in my life.

Two and a half years later, Isaac joined our family. He brought lots of laughter into the house, but his arrival also brought challenges that shook my world. A few months after his arrival, my wife became ill resulting in an extended hospital stay, a prolonged recovery, and an added weight to my shoulders that I had not expected. This time of my life caused all kinds of stretching. I learned to lean on friends and family. I learned to let go of things I once viewed as important. And I grew in my faith.

Life has brought other stretching experiences along the way. Earning my professional engineers license was a stretching experience. Completing my MBA degree was a stretching experience. Going to Guatemala the past two summers provided multiple stretching experiences. And writing and releasing my first book last month was another stretching experience.

Along life’s journey, I’ve learned some things about stretching worth sharing with you today:

  1. Stretching happens. We can’t always control the circumstances around us, but we can be certain that life will send us things that stretch us. Accept stretch. Embrace stretch.
  1. Stretching can be painful. I have a bulging disc in my lower back. It flares up from time to time. When it flares up, I have stretches to do which help the bulging disc pain to go away. When I do the stretches though, it hurts. In life, we will face many stretching things in our lives. Many of these things will be painful. This is just how it is.
  1. Stretching is helpful. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Stretching improves strength and flexibility. Stretching helps us grow. It helps us achieve new things and reach new heights.
  1. Stretching is worth sharing. Over the past seven years, I have been blogging about life’s stretch marks at my blog called Jon Stolpe Stretched. I write on the blog to reflect on stretching experiences in my life. And I also write to encourage others to stretch.

You too have a stretch story worth sharing. I’m certain you’ve faced challenges in your life that have caused you to stretch like a rubber band. Your story matters. You have something worth sharing with others. Your story of stretch could be a catalyst for something great in someone else’s life.

As I wrap things up, I’m thankful for my nickname. Stretch seems like such an appropriate name for someone who has grown from a six pound baby to a six-foot six-inch man. I’m excited to see where my life of stretching takes me, and I look forward to sharing parts of it with you as I step into membership in Toastmasters.

Thank you!

When was the last time you gave a speech?  If you were going to give an Ice Breaker speech for the Stretched Community, what is something you’d share in the speech?