Overcoming All Obstacles

Mohammed A. Al Qahtani, a business systems analyst working for the Industrial Security Planning and Support Services Department in Saudi Aramco in Dhahran, who overcame significant speech difficulties as a child, became the first Saudi and first Aramcon to win the World Championship in Public Speaking in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the U.S. on Aug. 15. He competed against 30,000 participants from about 100 countries after several elimination rounds that began six months ago. The championship is the highest level of speech competition in Toastmasters, and his victory in the contest is the first time an Arab has won this title in the 84 year existence of the organization. Al Qahtani represented District 79, which comprises 243 clubs in all of Saudi Arabia, and he faced off against national champions representing various nations from around the world to be named the world champion of public speaking. It was not an easy road for Al Qahtani to get to this point. As a child, he did not utter his first word until he was 6 years old. He also grew up with a speech impediment — stuttering — and was ridiculed for it by other children during his formative years. "Your mouth can spit venom, or it can mend a broken soul," Al Qahtani said. In 2009, he joined Toastmasters and devoted himself seriously to the Toastmasters educational learn-by-doing communication and leadership program. He worked sincerely to overcome his speech impediment, and because of his determination and the support of those around him, he succeeded. Acknowledging this, Al Qahtani said when receiving his award in Las Vegas: “Look where I am now. If this can happen to me, imagine what can happen to you.”