By Molly Meisels, Junior News Editor
Armed with an oversized die and an abundance of confidence, Professor Hill Krishnan took the Toastmasters stage to share lessons learned from a life well lived. “We don’t get to choose the country where we are born,” he announced to a captivated audience. “We don’t get to choose the level of society into which we are born.”
Professor Krishnan is a force to be reckoned with. After attaining his academic goals with degrees from NYU and Boston University, personal goals with his 12-year marriage, and career goals with his love for teaching, Professor Krishnan has climbed yet another formidable mountain. As of August 2018, he is one of the top twenty public speakers in the world.
His public speaking journey began with the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in January of this year. The competition started with 30,000 contestants from 141 countries, each vying to earn a spot in August’s Chicago semi-finals. The World Championship of Public Speaking commences with club contests, with the winners moving forward to the area contests, division contests, and district contests. Professor Krishnan triumphed in each of these levels, out-speaking his competition through sheer authenticity and passion. After winning the District 46 speech contest, he represented New York City, Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk County in the competition’s semi-finals, along with 104 other competitors. Professor Krishnan vied for victory alongside contenders from Australia, Nigeria, Singapore, Thailand, and Mexico. After a day of competition, he emerged as the second place champion in his category.
This conquest was no easy feat, and it did not begin back in January. The victory began in Vadukachimathil, India when Professor Krishnan was born into India’s “most backward” caste. His speech highlighted the inimitable struggles faced by a young man who dreamt of success in a world that placed too many obstacles in his path. By titling his speech “Roll It Again,” Professor Krishan aimed to motivate. He was expected to amount to little in his lifetime, because, as he puts it in his speech, “Fate rolls the dice when we are born.” But he did not allow fate to dictate his path. He did not allow fate to prohibit him from prospering. After meeting a motivational speaker in India, he realized that “fate is not the only thing that gets to roll the dice in our life. You get to roll your dice too.” His life was changed, sparking him to get into engineering school, obtain a US visa, and marry the woman of his dreams.
Professor Krishnan knew that merely speaking about his struggles and accomplishments would not lead him to victory. He says, “The best speeches … [are] based on an eternal truth … It gives credibility when you speak your own story. Who knows your life better than anyone?” Besides for focusing on the seriousness of eternal truths, he focused on perfecting his speech through humor. He wished to take listeners on a rollercoaster of emotions, so they’d feel a plethora of sensations. He did not want them to feel sorrow, but sorrow embedded with happiness, and happiness embedded with frustration.
Public speaking was always in the cards for Professor Krishnan. He used to compete in high school, and has been a performer all his life, using dancing as his artistic outlet. He chose teaching as a career because he found that cubicles stifled him and his creativity. His true essence emerges in front of others, allowing him to inspire them through his oratory skills. The Toastmasters competition strengthened his speaking abilities, teaching him how to project his voice correctly, move with purpose, and create an impeccable speech title.
He will utilize this experience to further enhance his skills as a professor. As a Political Science professor at Yeshiva University, Baruch College, and Fordham University, Professor Krishnan says that democracy and speaking are entwined, and he wishes to inspire his students to enrich their speaking capabilities. He enthusiastically states, “Everyone has the capacity to share their story … Nobody can find a flaw in your story. By saying your story, not only are you empowering others, but you get empowered.” He knows that the power of oration and communication are vital for success in whichever fields his students choose to enter.
He believes words are the most vital weapons we possess. Passion lights his eyes as he says, “When you speak the truth, grammar or accents don’t matter. Say it from your heart. When you say it from your heart, people can hear it.”