Burrard Toastmasters
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Club Speeches

I Can't

By Tao Roung Wong

I wish I could tell you that the good guy always wins. That the world is a better place than what it was before. I wish I could tell you that all the wounds that we bear for the things that we did and did not do will heal.

But I can't.

Because the good guys don't always win, the world hasn't gotten better and some wounds never truly heal.

I wish I could tell you all those things but I'm not that kind of person. Not anymore. If I ever was. If you gave me a glass half-filled, I would not see it as half-full. Or even half-empty. I'd see it as about to be emptied. Probably not by me.

I can't tell you to look on the better side of life. That at the very least you have your health. Because we are all fools of fortune and the playthings of fate. In one breath, one whispered word, one turn of the clock all that we have worked for, all that we have built can fall, leaving only ashes and tears.

I know. I've seen it happen.

I can't tell you that in the darkest times that there will be others who will stand by you. That all the lovers, friends and family we collect will matter one bit. For lovers leaves, friends falter and family fail. Because we ask too much and give too little. Because we are all in the end human.

I can't tell you that world will remember you or your actions in times to come. That no matter how hard we paint out images in the heavens, carve our lives in the mountains or have our names shouted through history, it will matter. For how many countless nameless graves have we walked on? How many forgotten heroes or selfless martyrs?

I can't tell you that what we do matters because no matter how bright we burn, in the end all the lights will go out and there will be a final ending. And though the Lady Death is kind and merciful, she also allows no exceptions.

At worst, I wish I could have told you that you will always be able to look at yourself in the mirror without shame. That you will live your life with honour to spare and without guilt.

But I can't.

Because life has a way of putting two bad choices before us. And when we refuse to choose, of making that the worst possible choice of all.

I wish I could tell you that it gets brighter at dawn. And I can. But night follows day and there is often no better tomorrow.

The line between delight and despair is very thin and when you fall, the climb back up is hard and painful and long. And you will always carry a shadow of despair forevermore.

I wish I could tell you so many things. But I can't. I can only tell you this.

That in the end, the only choice we are truly given is not how we live our lives but how we choose to end it.

We play a crooked game in this life, a losing game but we can still win. By choosing not to quit but to continue playing. No matter what hand we are dealt.

I can't tell you that it will be easy. Or simple. Or without cost. I can tell you that some days and even more nights, you will regret continuing to live.

But if you choose to stop, to quit. You will lose. Completely. Fully. And utterly.

If there is only one game in town, then we can only choose to play or give up. If there is only one game and we can only ever hope to lose, then its not winning but playing that matters.

Whether it be on your feet or knees.

Whether it be hale and hearty or coughing up your lungs.

Whether it be with honour or in shame.

In living, we win.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish I could offer you true wisdom. I wish I could offer you hope for a better tomorrow. But all I have to offer you is borrowed knowledge.

There is only game in town and the only way to win is to keep on playing till the Lady throws you out.

Do not go gently into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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