A Passionate Teacher, an Inspired Student, and an Idea

As the world has become overly reliant on text messaging and email as its primary communication tools, our ability to think on our feet —to articulate ideas concisely, in the moment, and to connect meaningfully during face-to-face interactions with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances— is evolving out.

Today, even highly intelligent and talented people with powerful ideas to share are squeamish about doing so in the flesh. And this is no surprise when the prospect of public speaking is already daunting and when so many of us seem to have lost interest in a life that exists beyond the laptop, iPad, or cell phone.

Graeme and Allison believe that when we forgo the practice of live communication, we miss out on countless fresh perspectives and let too many good ideas dry up or die on the vine. Worse, we forget how to talk to each other and, as a result, forfeit real community.

The problem became particularly evident to Graeme during his college years when he encountered fellow business majors who felt completely unprepared and terrified when instructed to speak in front of a group, give a presentation, or even comment during class. How would such students develop into effective business people and entrepreneurs, never mind the kinds of leaders who inspire later generations?

Similarly, during a review of English-department electives, Allison realized that at most secondary schools, nothing in the course catalogue addresses the art of speaking— of conveying words in the air by writing for the ear and delivering that writing live, with the voice and the body. It seemed to Allison that any aspiring communicator or leader would need this skillset, yet in her own experience she’d had to learn by doing, by powering through high-stakes speaking situations with whatever passion and purpose she could muster. No class or instructor had ever directly prepared her. When and where could young people devote themselves to the exercise and practice of their own public selves?

Graeme and Allison first met when Graeme took one of Allison’s courses at the Buckingham Browne & Nichols School and found that her class had changed his life. Allison taught the art of storytelling, the importance of voice control, and the power of nonverbal communication as well as many other critical components of delivering an engaging and inspiring speech. The training changed Graeme’s view of the world and, perhaps even more important, of himself.

Later, Graeme began to wonder whether he might help others access such an educational experience. He developed expertise in the field, seeking out speaking opportunities and studying various teaching methodologies. Ultimately, he drew up a business plan, made an appointment with his former teacher, and pitched it to her. Immediately, Allison was in.

Together, the two now aim to empower and enhance the lives of Boston-area teens while doing their part to rescue interpersonal discourse from the shackles of 140 characters.

Lumos is a product of Graeme and Allison’s commitment to the idea that personal and societal growth depend on good verbal communication and that everyone benefits when we nurture a new generation of dynamic storytellers, conversationalists, and speakers— the people who change the world.