A Gastonia man will join more than 80 people from around the world in Las Vegas this week for the Toastmasters' World Championship International Speech Contest. Forty-seven-year-old Mark Greer of Gastonia (pictured) helps disabled people land jobs, and he won his chance to compete in the contest's semifinals with a speech called "A Letter from a Father," which is about a young man who writes a letter to his unborn son just before going off to serve in Vietnam. Greer says the inspiration for the speech came from his own father who went to Vietnam just before his younger brother was born in the late 1960s. "One day I was just thinking, you know, what must my father have felt like at the age of 23, getting ready to go to war, and you have one son there but there's another one on the way that you know there's a possibility that you may never see," Greer says. He says people cried when he gave the speech. Greer says he developed a passion for moving people when he was in his 20s after he offered some words of wisdom to a co-worker who was going through a rough time. He says he realized the best way for him to reach people was through his talents as a speaker, and he began honing those talents six years ago. That's when he joined Toastmasters, a global organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills. Greer says he never envisioned competing in a public speaking championship. In fact, he says he didn't even plan to enter the Toastmasters contest. "One of my [Toastmasters] club members had finagled me into entering this contest," Greer says. "I went to be a judge actually, and my name got put into the box by a friend of mine and here we are. So I owe him a little." Greer will give his "A Letter from a Father" speech at one of nine semifinal contests in Las Vegas on Thursday. The winners from each of those contests will them compete on Saturday for the title of World Champion of Public Speaking. Larry Beitel of Winston-Salem was the last person from North Carolina to be crowned World Champion of Public Speaking. That was in 1963.