Gift of the gab

[attach]820[/attach]Jim Smith used to have a fear of public speaking.

Now it’s his passion.

Smith thought the best way to get over his fear would be to face it head on.

He came up with the idea after he joined a speechmaking society in South Africa and then a theatre society in Kenya during the five years he spent hitchhiking through Africa.

When the British expat moved to the Bloor West area with his Canadian wife, he tried to find a club similar to the ones he used to belong to, but found that none were open to the public.

“They are restricted to students and alumni,” he says. “Just because you don’t have a degree doesn’t mean you can’t debate.
“I wanted something that was open to anyone.”

Smith originally tried to start a debating club within the Toronto school board and in continuing education programs but was turned down.

Undeterred, he founded the Swansea Debating and Public Speaking Society, now called the Toronto Debating Society, in 1994.

The systems analyst says that the twice monthly debates are the intellectual stimulus of his life.

He, along with the other dozen or so members, argue about everything from the existence of God to whether cats are better than dogs, says Smith.

But no matter how serious the topic, Smith says it’s all in good fun.