The Words of the Heires Family
Julie Heires is a 38-year member of our church who is working to educate the public about True Parents' vision.
True Father has directed us to distribute his autobiography all over America by January 13, 2013. What would you do if it were possible to tell hundreds of people at one time about his book and his global programs?
Over the last few years, the question and answer portion of educational conferences sponsored by colleges and community organizations has provided me with the opportunity to speak about True Parents to well over one thousand seven hundred audience members.
My approach for each event varies depending on the sponsors, the conference theme and my purpose for attending, which is to inform the audience about True Parents work for world peace, to read quotations from or give away True Father's autobiography. The question and answer presentations are designed around the hope that the knowledge gained from them will be seen as a valuable part of everyone's experience.
I feel that over many years, a media largely antagonistic to our church seemed to have affected the majority of the American public; people apparently grew tired of thinking for themselves, deciding instead to believe false media coverage directed at our organizations. Following on from the damage done to our church's reputation in the early days, the media appears to have ignored us for many years and to be unwilling to publish anything related to our continual and largely unnoticed efforts to save America. The result is that the older generation has been left with its original false assumptions and the younger generation is unaware of our movement's existence.
What is the solution to the inaccurate information and America's adverse view of our church, largely fueled by the media? As many members as possible must find various ways to showcase our church movement in a positive light. We need to do this repeatedly for as long as it takes to turn public opinion around. After all, the only way to widen the narrow path of righteousness is for more people to walk on it.
Providing the public with information that accurately portrays our church movement is one way to change society's view of us. How can this be done? One possibility is to use public speaking events at which the audience is allowed to ask questions as a forum to share the breaking news' about True Parents.
Closer examination shows that frequently question and answer participants do more than just ask a question -- they make a statement and then ask a question. Within reason, of course, this is a practice that everyone accepts, providing us an opportunity to incorporate passages from True Father's autobiography or speeches or descriptions of global projects to both reinforce any conference theme and to demonstrate True Parents' efforts to create one family under God
Like anyone else, Unificationists can speak during any program's question and answer session. There is no more powerful testimony to our church than for the public to observe that we are normal people on a mission with True Parents to create a better world.
The theme of any conference that I attend must align itself in some way with the Principle. The key is to find topics Father has spoken about or global projects that support the focal point of the conference program. The purpose of my question and answer presentation is to use this information to show the organizers of the event and the audience that they share something in common with True Parents -- a common base -- the first step toward sharing the breaking news. What is said during those few moments may be the only thing they have ever heard about True Parents and is more important than what is said by any guest lecturer because it is said on behalf of True Father and True Mother.
Even with the best of intentions, will responses from the sponsoring organization or members of the audience always be positive? Of course not; but I try to keep in mind what Oliver Goldsmith said, "He who seeks only for applause from without has all his happiness in another's keeping." So far, no one -- sympathetic or hostile -- has ever approached me, once I have given my short question and answer speech.
At first glance, it might seem as if little opportunity exists to make a significant impression. On the contrary, the more you say, the less people recall. Think about this: the Lord's Prayer, the Twenty-Third Psalm and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, are three great literary treasures that will be remembered forever; yet not one of them is as long as three hundred words. The best test of a talk is depth -- not length. These striking illustrations of the power of brevity show us that a powerful message can be delivered in very few words, especially if they are True Father's words.
Look in the local newspaper or at college web sites for opportunities to attend public talks focusing on topics related to True Father's mission. Learn about the guest speakers; if possible, read whatever book or paper they have written. Check news publications or credible web sites for information on the speakers themselves.
Look up anything that True Father has said in his autobiography or speeches that are in alignment with the focal point of the conference and use this information as the basis of a question and answer presentation.
Over four years, an audience-tested methodology has evolved that will help ensure a positive question and answer experience using a three-step approach. First, make a comment supporting the conference theme or its speakers. Next, announce what you are about to do and do it: Emphasize True Father's global initiatives, or quote from his autobiography, or give the autobiography to a prominent person. Finally, ask a pertinent question related to the theme of the program.
Keep whatever you are planning to say very short, get the main points across in as few words as possible. Type notes and plan to read them to the audience. This helps calm the nerves. Plan and practice ahead of time, making sure not to go over two minutes.
Allow me to describe an event with a professor from Boston University, who was the guest speaker at a diversity conference hosted by the local community college. The main point of his message was that we cannot understand the world's peoples without understanding the religions that have shaped their cultures.
According to the professor, understanding world religions can be a matter of life and death. For example, how do we make sense out of Islamic hot spots of the world if we know nothing about what Muslims believe and cannot hold an intelligent conversation with believers of the faith? History shows that without understanding the differences and similarities of faiths, war is unavoidable. Americans must educate themselves about global religions through the comprehensive study of each faith. He surprised the audience by saying that it is not illegal to teach religion in public schools as long as the focus is not on theology or proselytization.
Before the program, I prepared for the question and answer session by purchasing one of the professor's books to ascertain the main point of his lecture. Then I reviewed True Father's book and found just the right passages complementing the topic of that night's program. My plan was to stand up during the question and answer session and read these quotations to the audience.
During the question and answer session, I said, "Sir, I truly applaud your efforts, professor, to teach about the great faiths of the world. These types of lectures will help inspire inter-religious understanding and cooperation. Before asking my question, I want to read a couple of excerpts from a book that supports many of the ideas spoken about tonight and then ask a question for your comments. I will be brief.
'If we continue the era of people congregating together only by religion or race, then humanity cannot avoid a repetition of war. The age of peace absolutely cannot come unless we transcend cultural customs and traditions. No ideology, philosophy or religion that has influenced humanity in the past is capable of bringing about the peace and unification that is needed for the future... It is urgent that the struggles of modern ideologies, cultures, and races be overcome through inter- religious understanding and spiritual harmony....'
[How is this to take place?] 'First, respect the traditions of other religions and do everything [possible to prevent conflict and discord among religions. Second, all religious communities should cooperate with each other to serve the world. Third, the leaders of all religions should work together to develop a structure that will let us accomplish our mutual mission of establishing world peace.'
I continued by saying that the author states that these goals can be achieved through (among other things) public education that includes religious education as part of its core curriculum, and I concluded with "These quotations are from the book As A Peace-Loving Global Citizen by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church. Question: Sir, can you explain why you believe it is important to teach world religions in public schools or universities and how this could help build bridges to world peace?"
Mission accomplished! I had gotten my point across to the hundreds of people who were there, namely, the profundity of True Father's words related to inter-religious cooperation now included in a book he had written.
My question and answer presentation was a total two hundred and eighty words, which took me about two minutes to say. The religious scholar did not miss the fact that I withheld the name of the book and its author until the end of my presentation. He mentioned while signing his book for me that doing so was a clever idea.
Later, I e-mailed him suggesting he make disciples out of his students and encourage them to get the word out that religious literacy should be taught as a part of public school education.
Arrive early and make sure to sit as close as possible to the public microphone, usually located at the front of the aisle. Once the question and answer session is announced, try to be the first or second person up to the microphone to ensure time to speak, because a moderator can cut question and answer off at any moment.
Remember to serve as the mediator between God, True Parents and the audience by praying for help from the spirit world. Prayer has inspired last minute changes that definitely improve delivery as well as add to the confidence to stand up in front of many people.
Remember the words of Dale Carnegie, "[When] you are speaking, forget everything but the subject. Never mind what others are thinking of you and your delivery; just forget yourself and go ahead."
Always bring water to drink in case you need it just before standing up at the microphone. Make sure to sound confident while speaking, which will add credibility to what is being said. Yes, fear will always be an aspect of public speaking; however, the time to worry is when fear is replaced with complacency. Complacent speakers bore an audience.
Remember to use heavenly wisdom; if the atmosphere at an event is obviously unfriendly, just ask a purposeful, thought- provoking question.
Mention True Father's name at the end of any comments, otherwise, the audience will be distracted before there is a chance to quote him.
If necessary, when attending events frequently sponsored by the same college or community group, vary the routine, so that actions cannot be anticipated and circumvented by event organizers.
Bring copies of the autobiography for distribution to guest speakers and members of the audience.
Be open to other opportunities to recontact guest speakers, such as e-mailing them to let them know how much their efforts were appreciated and the valuable lessons learned from them. The possibilities are endless, if we are open to them.
In conclusion, question and answer is one way to get the breaking news out to the world by using it as an opportunity to establish a "personal ministry of sharing with others about our True Parents," as mentioned in the suggested points for our prayer condition for national unity.