Friday, December 25, 2009

Maybe it really is a wonderful life after all......

Good evening everyone,

The last Christmas of this decade is about to come to a close tonight, and I will definitely miss it for sure. Even though I am Jewish, you can't help but appreciate and become awestruck by this time of year-walking past houses with their decorations such as inflatable snow globes, and perusing the local mall which is all lit up with the sounds of the season. Today, very few restaurants are businesses are open, with the exception of the movies, and there are some movies that relate very well to stuttering. The NSA welcomed Jeffrey Blitz, the creator of "Rocket Science," to speak at our New Jersey conference, for example. But this Christmas, I sat down and watched a movie I'd never seen before, and was wowed at how relevant the themes of it are. Christmas and Frank Capra just seem to go together.

Of course, I speak of "It's A Wonderful Life," which is one of the timeless movies of this generation. Released in 1946, it tells the story of George Bailey, a man who has tremendous values. A person who continually sacrifices his goals for the betterment of his town and the world he lives on. He had hoped to be an architect and travel the world, but he decides to wait until his son can take his place at the Bailey Building & Loan Association. As the movie continues, he finds out that on his honeymoon that the association is in danger of collpasing, so he and his wife take the money designated for that occasion and give it to the bank to prevent it from closing.

I am not going to tell you the rest of the movie for obvious reasons. But we all know how he tries to end his life and his guardian angel pleads to help him. It's at this time, that the audience is shown what would have happened had he never been born.

There are many people in the world who don't understand what stuttering is, and may even dispute what it means to struggle with communication. Stuttering can be as debilitating as other conditions-I often felt for the longest time that it is akin to "dying a vocal death," but it's not a one-time thing. It's every day, and it happens at any time. A person who stutters may choose a vocation far beneath them, or may avoid social interaction because that they're afraid.

Although I am confident in my speech, there were pre-NSA times when I did feel very ashamed of my stuttering and guilty. I could just sense it in the other person's eyes. I have very good days and bad speech days. In fact, yesterday I had one of my worst speech days. I walked into the local Subway on Christmas Eve, six blocks or so from my house. I usually go there several times a month, and they know what I get. (Please, try the footlong turkey-double stacked, with onions, lettuce, carrots, pickles, green pepper, and cucumber, chipotle dressing). I digress, though.

I knew what I wanted to say. But I blocked on every single word! I felt that larynx begin to squeeze, leading to my vowel suffocation. I frantically tried every technique I could, but it just made it worse. Eventually, the manager figured out what I wanted to say, but I refused to allow him to accept that. I wished I would have been anywhere else. But I left the store knowing that I am thankful that I can never allow myself to surrender.

Thinking back to the movie, I am sure there are times (in fact, I know there are) when we often ask ourselves what life would be like if we didn't stutter. Or what if we wished we had some other challenge to overcome? I can remember those high school and college days of anguish, wishing I was deaf in addition to stuttering, that way I would never have to hear what was being said about me.

Despite all the challenges we face (and there will be more and more of them), I keep thinking maybe I really do have a "wonderful life." Yes, I know I have a lot of things I would like: More money, a nicer car, and that special woman. And I have some things that I can't change: I can't change the relationship I have with my parents when it comes to my speech. I also have a very powerful love in my life. A love of a special organization where people who stutter come together to celebrate everything it was, it is, what it will be. A love that renews itself every day. And the feeling of counting down to those days in July when I will give my fellow people who stutter a big hug and say "It's great to see you again." And the feeling that I am home, and so in love with the National Stuttering Association.

On my worst days, just remember: Your life is valuable. Make sure the world allows you to share your voice and special gifts.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I am proud that I stutter!

Good afternoon everyone,

I've often heard the term "pride" mentioned as a big factor in why some people do the things they do. For example, a person who is struggling with addictive impulses may refuse to admit they have a problem and want to get help, because they are too proud. Or sometimes we may not want to accept a lower-paying job, because we may feel "We're better than that." However, in some cases, it's important to have pride in moderation, because it tells a lot about the type of character you have.

Yesterday, in the wake of the Blizzard of 2009, I was watching the NFL on FOX, and being that I live in the metropolitan New York area, the local FOX affiliate, which was WNYW/5, was showing the New York Jets hosting the Atlanta Falcons. In a game that meant nothing to the Falcons because they had already been eliminated from playoff contention, the Falcons eked out a win, 10-7, on a last second touchdown. And while the home crowd was groaning, the play-by-play team of Dick Stockton and Charles Davis were talking about how the Falcons would be missing the playoffs, there was a very important goal they were shooting for. In their existence as an NFL franchise, the Falcons have never had back-to-back winning seasons, and that was a goal that would be of great importance. After the game, sideline reporter interviewed Tony Gonzalez, a future Hall of Famer in his own right, and he said (paraphrasing) that "We have a great deal of pride, and we're professionals."

I repeatedly thought about that comment-in a situation like this, it's very easy to fold up the tent and say "We're done. See you all next year, and we'll try again then." But you need to have pride in what you do and who you are, and let others know that. I am proud that I stutter and I feel fortunate that I have a special gift that I can share with others in this world. For those who understand me and the NSA Nation and the special things we bring to this life, if you think your stuttering is a big deal, it will be. When you look down when you speak to others, they'll start to look down too and feel embarrassed. One of the most important lessons that I learned from an NSA conference (among many) is to give a firm handshake and look the other person in the eye when you speak. That exudes confidence and power and the value reaches so far.

We're all works in progress when it comes to accepting who we are. We are our own worst enemies, because no one sees our flaws the way that we do. The NSA Nation allows us to represent ourselves to the fullest extent possible.

As I was watching the end of the game, I saw Arthur Blank, the owner of the team, on the sidelines. At our conference in Atlanta, he was a keynote speaker. Not only does he own the Falcons, but he co-owned The Home Depot and is a millionaire many times over, and is very philanthropic in the Atlanta community. I couldn't help but think back to a quote he made during his speech when he said "There is no finish line." It was on a T-shirt that he wears when he runs marathons. There is always work to be done in our lives, and improving ourselves as human beings and as people who stutter. There are times we will want to stop, and raise the white flag of surrender. But we can't. Because we have pride in the work we do, and will continue to do to spread stuttering awareness everywhere.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What an ass this person is!!!!

Good evening everyone,

I always look forward to getting The Hockey News in the mail every week. I relish the chance to read the stories and interesting anecdotes to see how I can relate them to stuttering. Those who know me would definitely say I am a huge hockey fan, if not a fanatic. But sometimes you read an article and you have to step back and wonder, "What the !@$!#!@#$! was this person thinking?" As a person who stutters, I am learning (and continue to learn) how to make my words count and exercise my control to not let my stuttering become a flaw for others to exploit, which I could not do for a long time.

There was an article written about the effort to put together the Olympic hockey team from Finland. In 2010, the National Hockey League will shut down to allow their players to represent their native countries in the quest for Olympic gold in Vancouver. If you ever have the chance to hear a former athlete speak about their greatest triumphs, chances are strong that you may hear them reflect on what a special honor it was to represent their country and compete at the highest level. However, there was an anecdote that made me look twice, and realize: If there were ever someone who needed an attitude adjustment, it was this guy I am about to talk about.

Miikka Kiprusoff is the goalie for the Calgary Flames. A good, steady netminder, but nothing approaching superstar status, although he did play in a Stanley Cup Final. He stated he wanted to be the number one choice to represent his country-nothing wrong with that, showing the competitive juices. Then, according to author Edward Fraser, in November, he stated either he'd be labeled the starter-or he'd stay home over the break. There are many descriptions I could use to describe that, and needless to say, the coach of the team, Jari Kurri, didn't take that comment too kindly. "The players don't make the decisions. The coaches do," he said.

The one thing I have tried and consistently stressed about my stuttering is the desire and the requirement to have a good attitude. With that comment, can you blame anyone for saying "I'll take my chances with someone else?"

I tried to visualize this scenario as to how it might have played out in high school or college. I saw myself asking to participate in an event, and here is the response: "Sure, Steven you can play, but you can't stutter." Or something to the effect of, "Yes, you can play, but you can't speak to the referee or anyone else." I can control many things. I can't control if I have a good speech day or a bad one. I can't control the locking of my vocal chords when I am trying to say what I want. I can control my ATTITUDE.

We all make decisions in our life and we must live with the consequences. And for one Miikka Kirpusoff, if he decides not to participate, that is his right. But I guarantee you long after he retires, he will not be remembered for what he did on the ice. He'll be remembered for not wanting to care about others enough. I will never put myself above the NSA Nation or anyone else because I care about others! We who stutter have a very special bond that must never be broken, and that bond is to be celebrated every day.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Saturday nights with the NSA Nation......

Good evening everyone,

The cold winds are upon us, and for many around the world, this is the best time of year. The Christmas lights are up, the menorahs are soon to be lit, and for once, it seems like everyone has a spring in their step, a smile on their face, and maybe a little more patience than they used to. However, that isn't always true, given the way things are in the world-high unemployment, frustrations in finding a job, wondering when the next chapter of our lives will be starting.

On Saturday, Dec. 5, I had the honor of getting together with my peers for an NSA holiday party. The Manhattan (New York County) chapter for the past two years, has hosted a get-together which is open to anyone who stutters, regardless of chapter affiliation. Last year, I made a suggestion that it would be a great idea to make it an inter-chapter gathering, and that was accepted. This year, we invited those from Long Island, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Central Jersey to attend. Unbeknownst at the time, we were about to be greeted by a mixture of snow and slush, but even though the calendar read December, for me it might as well have been a special version of Thanksgiving because I was with those who get me.

There's something special about seeing the smile of a teammate who you don't always get to see that often, the genuineness of a handshake and catching up on old times and seeing what has been going on. Sometimes the news is great, other times not so much. But you still embrace the camaraderie that is there. I met so many new members who were thrilled at the chance to meet others who were walking in the same shoes we walked in, facing the same challenges we do on a daily basis. And over barbecued chicken and chili, we laughed, we chatted, we had become so close in an amazingly short amount of time.

The night we held our party, the NSA chapter in the Bay Area (San Francisco) held their holiday party, which I thought had an excellent title: "Eat, Drink, and Be M-M-Merry." How poetic was it that on both sides of the country, with 3,000 miles separating each other, these two chapters held their own events. Yet all over the U.S., there were many chapters hosting holiday parties and getting together in their own way to showcase the spirit of what the NSA Nation really is.

I can say that I don't always get to the city often. Most of my life is concentrated on Long Island, and I am a suburbanite-every time I exit the Long Island Railroad at Pennsylvania Station and go up the escalator, I am still awestruck at the skyscrapers and wonder how I find myself there. But taking the 10:52 back home, and passing some of the skyline, I have to say when you find yourself alone, when you have the worst speech day possible and nothing just goes according to plan, you know that you aren't. You're a citizen of the NSA Nation. We all are. And that is the best feeling in the world.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How do you feel about stuttering and dating?

Good evening everyone,

I wanted to use this edition of the blog to discuss an interesting experience I recently had online in a chat room. I am going to be turning 32 next year, and like many of my peers, would like to get into the dating game. Some take the road less traveled, with many bumps along the way, like I have done. Hindsight as they say is always 20/20, but if I knew then what I knew now I probably would have not done half the stupid things in high school and college. I've always been attracted to the Internet when it comes to meeting new people. It's really an oxymoron, but I do much better on the Internet than in real life, one-to-one conversations. Needless to say, you can't hide behind a computer your whole life, but I can admit that the online world of dating can help "level the playing field" when it comes to being a teammate who stutters. Thankfully, the NSA Nation has been a godsend in helping me grow not just socially, but professionally as well.

Recently I was in a "thirties love" chat room on AOL, and chatting with a young woman from the Chicago suburbs. We were discussing the usual things: where we live, what we like to do, and I of course mentioned my incredible love of my life and the greatest passion I have, which is working for the National Stuttering Association. Things were going pretty well and then I heard the dreaded "goodbye" from AOL. It's all right, I told myself, she'll be back in a few minutes. She never did.

I recently signed up for a few months ago and decided to do something bold, something I'd never done before. I mentioned prominently in my profile that the National Stuttering Association is a major driving force in my life. Now of course, I knew the risks I was taking, but I also knew that I had to do the right thing and be honest. Which brings me to this question: Is honesty the best policy?

You have heard me talk about the journey of self-acceptance every teammate who stutters must take within themselves. We all need to accept that we stutter-for some of us, it is a realization that occurs much sooner rather than later. It took me until my late twenties to realize that I stutter, and the choice is mine as to what I can make of it-after all, I can either make it work for me, or against me at the same time. But before I took that journey of self-acceptance, I would accept that I would be single for the rest of my life, and feel it's a death sentence. This world we live in isn't getting any better-the insults are becoming more caustic, the confrontations more violent, but I have seen hope, in the form of my NSA teammates in high school who are becoming more confident socially and growing into leaders in their own right.

Over dinner at the diner last week, I discussed this with a peer of mine, and she gave a very challenging response, which ate at me for a while: "I think what you're doing is courageous, but don't you think you're also throwing yourself on the mercy of the court without being tried?" she inquired. We all have certain qualities we look for in a potential girlfriend/significant other, but do we ever have deal-breakers? Sure. Smoking can be one. Doing drugs? Absolutely. My biggest one though, is a lack of acceptance of the NSA Nation. I could never date, or want to date, someone like that.

The greatest appeal of the NSA conferences is that teammates who do not stutter get just as much out of these seminars. It's not uncommon to see a teammate bring their girlfriend/boyfriend to this event, and they marvel at the life-altering processes that take place here. I know I am very comfortable as a teammate who stutters, and that needs to come through loud and clear. The NSA Nation is where I draw my power from. There may be those who just don't care about stuttering, or don't want to know about it. That's fine if they feel that way. All you've done is given me another reason not to want to get to know you.

I know that stuttering and dating can present a very big challenge. Stuttering affects men more than it does women, but we often wonder who has the greater challenges in the dating game. I have challenges too, of dealing with potential dates who may not understand the impact of a comment they make. I'll never forget one incident in my life that happened a year ago. I was out with a woman and we were having dinner at Houlihan's, and when the server came over to ask me what I wanted to drink, I asked for a cosmopolitan (yes, they really are good LOL) and it came out like "C-c-c-c-c-osmmmmmopolitan." The woman said "Wow, I didn't think that would take you a long time to answer." I got up and promptly walked out of the restaurant, and drove home. The next day I sent her an email explaining to her that because of that comment, I could no longer even speak with her. I was so angry after that, that I refused to even want to date because I was thinking everyone else would be just like that. But it's not true. It can be trying. It can test even the strongest of wills. But I know that in the end, I will find that woman who accepts the NSA Nation and how important it is to me.

We all want to find the "one." Here's to my teammates who refuse to let their stuttering stand in the way of that goal.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm thankful for a special kind of freedom!

Good evening everyone,

Tonight is Thanksgiving Eve, and all across the country there is a plethora of things to be done: the traveling to family and loved ones, the manic last-minute preparations for the feast to be unveiled tomorrow, or, the start of the party night of the year. (Well, at least according to the countless advertisements for bars I've heard on the radio). We all know the roots of Thanksgiving, with the Pilgrims, and we have many things to be thankful for: our family, our health, our freedoms. Yet above all else, there's one freedom I have never taken for granted, and it wasn't until it was taken from me that I realized how important it truly is. They say you don't know what you have until it's gone, and isn't that the truth. I am talking about the freedom to stutter openly and do so without shame and embarrassment-the freedom to be myself.

Growing up on Long Island, I lived in a close-knit community-and there really wasn't much "wiggle room" in the popularity race. You either were somebody, or you weren't. Each person had an identity that went far beyond the name, and I knew what mine was: "Steven the Stutterer." I can still re-live those cruel days when I would ask to sit down for lunch and the vocal chords locked, just like the car wheels in the snow. "Sorry, this seat is taken," or "Come on, Stuttering Steve! Spit out the words." I had accepted that was my fate, to be known as "Stuttering Steve." It got so bad that I would actually eat lunch by myself in the nurse's office. I didn't have to make up any excuses, I would just walk into the office, give a nod which was acknowledged, and go into the bed to eat. That would become my refuge, and my safe place. Of course, I never dared tell my parents about what I experienced.

And yet, the pain grew so long and hard. Every Thanksgiving holiday that passed, just felt like a Groundhog Day episode: the angst, the alienation, and being secluded from the rest of the modern world. I felt like an uninvited guest to the dinner table, and when I would sit down and ask for something to be passed to me, I could never get the words out. "Cranberry" would come out like "c-c-crrrrrrranberry" and as I was fumbling with the words, my mom would sit there exasperated and my dad would be rolling his eyes wondering why I could not say what I wanted. After that, I decided to spend my Thanksgiving holidays at a diner by myself, just me and the trimmings. And as I'd be eating, I would look over and see the happy families laughing, just enjoying being together, and seeing my heart ripped out and the blood squeezing very slowly in front of me.

These are certainly unprecedented times we live in: jobs are being cut, sacrifices made and unpopular choices around us. But this Thanksgiving, I look back on the memories of Scottsdale for the 2009 NSA annual conference, and those memories keep me going. I think about how above all else, I am grateful for the freedom I have: the freedom to stutter. The freedom to educate and empower my teammates, and learn from all of them. The freedom to share my head-over-heels love of the National Stuttering Association ( with SLP students who will make their mark on the speech pathology field. I learn just as much from them and hopefully they learn from me. We all live through each other, celebrating our triumphs and learning about our challenges. The freedom to stutter and be who you are is truly the biggest reason to celebrate Thanksgiving.

It's always human nature to want more than what we have. Yet at the same time, I realize now that I am a special teammate with a gift. This is a precious gift that all NSA teammates have. The gift to love, the gift to learn, and the gift to make this world better than it is. Many times these gifts will not go recognized, but to those who are touched by them, just knowing that their world is brighter is enough thanks. But if you really want to see this gift in action, come to the NSA Conference in 2010 but just watch the last day when teammates leave to say goodbye. For those special teammates we call "first-timers," watch the tears down their face, and the families' faces as well. Some things really are priceless.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my teammates!

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I made a memory of positive hope in the District of Columbia!!!

Good evening all my teammates,

I have to start off this blog entry by letting everyone know that even in the most trying of days and times, like the ones we face today, it is a given that if you keep focusing on the task at hand and never waving the white flag of surrender, eventually you will hit milestones. Many times these milestones are not often marked by the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or anything tangible. But they are marked the belief that anything is possible, even when we don't think it is.

On Thursday, Nov. 12, I began my travels from Long Island down to Washington, DC. Now most hear that and they are like, "Oh wow, nothing special. What's the big deal about the Turnpike and the Beltway?" Well, most times, there isn't, after all, those roads have been traveled many times before. But I was en route to the nation's capital for a very special and unique event. For the past two years, I have worked part-time while I seek full-time employment. These are perilous times we live in regarding today's economy, after all, safety nets (if they still exist) are hanging on by a thread. I found out about a special job fair being sponsored by a Long Island-based company called Equal Opportunity Publications, and they were hosting a job fair designed for candidates with disabilities. It was held at the Reagan Trade Building in downtown Washington, with many federal agencies and private employers looking to hire. I knew it was something I had to go to.

As I was driving down there and passing the Philadelphia skyline on I-95, I began to wonder a few things. Would I be the only who stutters there? How will I be perceived by other candidates as well as employers? Am I acknowledging I have a disability or not? So many questions and different ways to answer, so I want to share my thoughts on each perspective. Waiting on line to enter the job fair, I saw many different candidates facing challenges and being proud to represent themselves to the fullest: whether it was blindness, deafness, or paralysis. Stuttering is gaining so much momentum in the eyes of the world and I am proud to be a teammate who can show others the impact it has, but more importantly, what it can do for you if you have a positive attitude. As soon as I open my mouth, someone will know I stutter. And so what if they do? I was honored to be in the company of those candidates looking for work.

As to whether I feel I have a disability, I would say no, but there is a caveat. I suppose in the eyes of the law, I might be perceived as having one. I have worked with (and still am) working with vocational counselors and there are special considerations I can be given for employment with state and federal government. I want to be judged on my character and what I can do, even though most times it seems like we are judged based on our past and track record. I am taking advantage of an opportunity that was furnished to me, and I'd be foolish not to accept it. Sometimes it does frustrate me to deal with employers because HR people may seem disinterested or not care, especially if the job requires some level of oral proficiency. All jobs do. But do you know how I respond? I think this one sentence says it all: You may think I have a disability, but in reality, it's my greatest asset." How true it is!!!!

With every employer I met, I showcased the National Stuttering Association proudly. Many employers were impressed by my intense desire and loyalty to this incredible organization. In fact, one recruiter I met with had a cousin who stutters, and I told him all about the NSA Nation and how tremendous they are, and provided him with the contact information to get in touch. I also met a recruiter from NASA who was interested in possibly discussing a media a ride on the shuttle will not be offered LOL. Great contacts were made, and resumes/business cards exchanged.

We as teammates but more importantly human beings know when we've experienced something great and how it feels. As a teammate who stutters, we tend to focus on more the negatives than the positive. I have faced and will continue to face many challenges with my speech, but I also know with the NSA Nation, I will remain focused on what needs to be done and know that I will never surrender to stuttering. When you experience those highs, they last much longer and taste ever so sweeter.

Here's to more of those moments taking place...and as always, here's to doing what is necessary to ensure the NSA Nation keeps going.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Meaning Of Life, and Why You Don't Want To Live In The World Of Me!

Good evening all my teammates,

Although I am 31, in some ways I feel like my life has already started over and I am unlearning everything that I learned in college. They say college prepares you for the real, is that an understatement of the highest kind. Our lives are shaped by experience and the teammates who leave their impressions on us by how they are, how they live, and how they give of themselves. When I was studying at Nassau Community College, I happened to take an introductory philosophy course, which to me wasn't anything more than some requisite that had to be filled. Of course, the professor didn't really make the class entertaining, but rather it was one student who asked the question about the meaning of life. This might sound strange, but it took me almost a decade and a little longer to find out just what the meaning of life is...and of all things, it came out of the pages of The Sporting News. It was taken from an interview with Larry Fitzgerald, the superstar wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, as he was speaking about his mother, who had taken great pride in being a teacher who still receives letter from her students who have grown up to be productive members of society. Here's the simple lesson: "Life is really about making changes and helping people better themselves."

As much as it bothers me to acknowledge this, sometimes I fear that we live in the world of "ME." The world of me has no place for others, or no place for giving unless something is rewarded. The world of me has permeated our society, and it can be seen on the news by hearing stories about those who have spent lavishly at the expense of others. The world of me enters one's world when you begin to develop a "I never cared about anyone attitude, so it's me against the world." That attitude may work in high school, and maybe your first years of college. But once you enter the real world, I guarantee you if you keep on doing that, the world of me will force you to succumb to everything you don't want in life, and before you realize it, you won't recognize who you are.

I face a unique set of challenges as a teammate who stutters. Before I found the National Stuttering Association, to whom I owe everything, I had often questioned why it had been me who stuttered, and why not someone else. I had longed, for example, to wish I was deaf in addition to having a stutter so that I would not have to hear what was said about me. The world today is a lot more cruel than it's ever been. I've met some of the most amazing teammates at my NSA conference who are in high school and they stand firm in their convictions. They are the first ones who will challenge others when teasing about their stuttering is involved. They are truly wise beyond their years....and it's our job as teammates to continue to mentor them.

But in the end, the choice is ours. What do you think is the meaning of life? I know what mine is: To use my power to break the stranglehold of stuttering and give support and guidance to others. I can promise you this: Wherever stuttering is and it presence threatens my teammates, I will be there.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I am the CEO of my own life!

Good evening my NSA teammates,

Today I opened up the newspaper and was reading the story of another person in the public eye who fell from grace and as a result, embarrassed not only himself, his employer, but most importantly, lost his reputation. Steve Phillips, the former general manager of the New York Mets and an ESPN analyst regarding baseball, was terminated along with a production assistant for carrying on an affair which caused great humiliation to the station. I couldn't help but compare his plight to those executives in the automotive industry who pleaded their case before Washington, crying for a bailout. What do these have in common? One word: accountability.

I decided to create a new phrase that I want to implement into my presentations not only when I speak to classes of SLP students, but in my seminars at the NSA as well. What is that phrase? "I am the CEO of my own life!" We've often heard the term "chief executive officer" or "chief operating officer" in regard to many Fortune 500 companies, as they are the face of the organization. To be a CEO in this kind of mode requires tact, patience, an ability to lead and guide those who depend on you. Sadly, these days that breed is disappearing. As I was writing this, I couldn't help but picture these people with a "Duuuuh" expression as they wondered why their companies were in the predicament they were in. Most likely, it's because they made poor decisions, or didn't even bother to take accountability for their actions.

Like many NSA teammates, I have taken my own personal journey of self-acceptance, and I feel that I am accountable to myself and the NSA in many ways. For starters, I own my stuttering and accept it as part of who I am. This was a painful and very trying task for me to undergo. The expression "The truth will set you free" was very pertinent for me in this case. I realized that in order to take accountability, I had to first stop denying the existence that I was not a person who stuttered. I would often say I spoke very slowly and deliberately, because to admit to myself that I stuttered was an admission of guilt for the longest time. That's not the case anymore.

Being not just a teammate, but a chapter leader, has also heightened my awareness when it comes to being accountable. I enjoy reading other chapter leaders discussions in their chapters, and one of the many things that makes the NSA so very special is that we demand the best from each other, and we get it. We challenge each other and push each other to not just become better teammates, but human beings as well. I have made many mistakes in my life, and learned the hard way that you do pay the consequences for your actions. One time when I was working full-time, I told my supervisor that I had done something when in reality I didn't, because I didn't want her to think I was incompetent. A few days later I got caught in a lie, and as a result, had a note go into my personnel file. That is a reflection on me, and no one else.

In the movie "Fifteen Minutes" with Robert De Niro and Edward Burns, there's a very sharp quote that makes you think: A foreigner says "I love America because no one is responsible for what they do." Does that seem to be the case sometimes? There are always stories on the news about passing the buck and blaming someone else. "It's not my fault, it's her fault," is a common refrain. Well, I can say this emphatically: "I am the CEO of my own life. The decisions I make are mine and mine alone, and I will accept whatever happens and make the best of it."

The day I said that, was the day I learned that any door can be opened.

My name is Steven Kaufman, and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

The NSA Nation is located at!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Have you sold the NSA today?

Good evening my teammates,

A few days ago I was making a delivery to a local car dealership which happens to be the biggest on Long Island, Huntington Honda. I remember walking into the customer service department to drop the food off, and as I was coming out, I couldn't help but notice a brand-spanking new Honda Civic Hybrid. As I was admiring it, a saleswoman smiled and came up to me. "As much as I wish that was my new car, maybe someday in the future," I said. She smiled and turned to another customer. I said charmingly, "The way these cars are, they sell themselves."

If you grew up in the 1980s, then you probably remember Honda ran a marketing campaign that was billing their cars as "The cars that sell themselves." At this year's National Stuttering Association conference in Arizona, a presentation was made to show the tremendous strides that we have made. We are now the biggest advocacy organization for teammates who stutter around the world. We have advertisements in some of the world's most well-known magazines. But my teammates and I are not complacent at all. As the line from "High School Musical 3" goes, "Get Your Head In The Game," and that's exactly what we are doing....but at the same time, the bar is continually being raised.

Advertising is everywhere. It's not just opening the magazines anymore or watching on television. We are bombarded 24/7/365. We go to bed and we dream of something we saw earlier. When I was in Washington, DC, getting together with some NSA teammates, we rode the Metro (Washington's subway) and you see one row of continuous advertisements, from everything schools to bladder issues and how to resolve them. (Don't ask, I won't reveal any more details. Some things must not be discussed in public, after all). But what, as teammates of the NSA, can we do?

Some wear conference T-shirts all the time. A good start, for sure. However, every teammate has a different starting point on their journey of self-accecptance. Some may not feel comfortable advertising they are a person who stutters. Others are more open and aggressive with promoting the NSA. When I meet someone for the first time, I give them a firm handshake and say "Hi, I'm Steven Kaufman, NSA Long Island Chapter Leader." This blog is advertising the NSA. When I speak at colleges, that's selling the NSA.

I have great respect for those who work in sales, as it's a difficult profession-the stress of having to make a certain amount of production in order to receive commission. But when it comes to the selling of the NSA, my rewards are never monetary, and I don't need them to be. The rewards I get come at the end of the conference, or after I speak to SLP students. There is no greater feeling (although tinged with sadness) when the conference closes and you see the first-timers (the special name given to new teammates) hugging everyone and saying this forever changed their life. The same exact thing happens when students ask me questions and tell them what a great experience it is to learn about my experience.

As teammates, let's sell the NSA Nation now and forever..with the ultimate goal being a world free from judgment, bullying, and respect for all teammates.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Good evening all my teammates! October 3rd was a very special day of excitement for me. Where I live on Long Island, we have many fans of the New York Islanders, Long Island's NHL team, and Opening Night is always a big deal. As I was wandering around the concourse before the game to check out the warmups, I came across two people who I assumed were season-ticket holders. I happened to be within earshot of their conversation, and it went a little something like this: "Hey, Johnny, how you doin?" "Looking forward to seeing our kids grow this year, especially this kid Taveras." This conversation ended with "This never gets old." That is the part I wanted to focus on, that one statement. "It never gets old," for me, refers to the honor, but more importantly, the duty I have as an NSA teammate to lecture at speech pathology classes to make sure our future SLP professionals know about the experiences of what it is like to stutter, and the birth of the NSA Nation. This past week I completed three speaking engagements in five days-first, to a graduate class at Saint Joseph's College in Patchogue, N.Y., a graduate class at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y., and a third to undergraduate students at Richard Stockton College in Pomona, N.J. To me, public speaking never gets old. Throughout life, you may have heard the expression "The thrill is gone."-maybe you're tired of going to that restaurant, going into the city to check out the nightlige. But for me, speaking about the NSA Nation never gets old. Every time I get up in front of a class, I know the world is listening. Whenever I read tales of my fellow chapter leaders who speak to classes, that is another sign the NSA Nation is spreading. You don't need to be a chapter leader to speak to students. Just remember that we are all teachers of our experiences stuttering. That never gets old. My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The birth of a nation.....the NSA Nation!

Good evening teammates around the world,

I do apologize for the lack of new posts lately. It may seem like a week or so, but for me it felt like an eternity. The school year is now back in effect, and there's something very special to me about the fall, and change of seasons. This is my time when I come alive. I guess you might say that I am a rare bird, because many of us enjoy the long summer nights and sizzling temperatures. Yet I enjoy the raw winds, the chill permeating from all directions.

Sept. 26 marked another special celebration of all things stuttering. On that day, teammates from various NSA chapters got together in Washington DC for a great social occasion-taking in the Atlanta Braves-Washington Nationals game at Nationals Park, followed by dinner out at Buca di Beppo in Dupont Circle. I have truly enjoyed many amazing moments and breakthroughs in my life with stuttering, which have not just taken place locally, but anywhere and everywhere. Each conference and social gathering is as unique as the next. But when you think of Washington, DC, what comes to your mind? The monuments? The ideals? The oppressive humdity in July and August? (Try waiting for a hotel shuttle at Reagan National when it's 100 degrees with 90 percent humidity-as Paris Hilton might say, "That's hot.")

Washington is the center of our nation for all guidance how our lives are shaped, and lived. When a law is passed, the eyes of the world turn there. And on the bus ride back home to New York City to catch the LIRR out to the suburbs, I began to think. What if we could create a NATION about all things stuttering? The National Stuttering Association, my greatest love, has become the biggest and most dominant advocacy organization for teammates who stutter everywhere. And like a thunderbolt out of a clear blue sky, I thought of the best way to describe all things stuttering: The NSA Nation. For teammates who stutter, by teammates who stutter.

Now while America's capital will always be Washington, the NSA Nation has no permanent location at all. Wherever you are, that is where the NSA Nation is. When you show off your sexy attitude that you will speak your mind and others are going to hear it, that's where the NSA Nation is. The NSA Nation is everywhere at all times.

If you want to be a teammate of the NSA Nation, here's all you have to know:

1. That YOU WILL speak loudly and confidently,
2. You WILL make others to hear and respect you,
3. You WILL reach out to other teammates to help them find their voices,
4. You WILL make sure SLP graduate students know the your story, and the story of the NSA Nation,
5. You WILL break the stranglehold of stuttering,
6. You WILL celebrate the NSA Nation every day.

Sept. 26 is the birth of my NSA Nation. I invite all teammates to join me.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Good evening everyone,

I have to begin this entry of the blog by saying that I believe. I believe in my teammates at the National Stuttering Association more than anything else. I believe that the world, despite everything that goes on it, is still a welcoming place where all opinions are accepted and values for what they are. I don't care if anyone thinks I am naive when I say that, and I hope when you read this you'll understand why. Most importantly of all, I believe we all have the power to make a difference, and we all have the two most important qualities needed to do so: "Passion" and "Drive."

These two qualities, which are not in short supply anymore, were evident at a special event that I was truly honored to be a part of. Last night, my NSA co-chapter leader was honored as a member of the Long Island community making a difference. For those of you who are unaware, the Long Island Press ( is a major media outlet in the world of alternative publications. Every week, the "Fortune 52" column (named after the associate publisher of the newspaper) profiles a woman who is truly creating a significant contribution to our region. I, along with several others, nominated Lori to be profiled. I was delighted to receive a call from the associate publisher, who met with her and was blown away by her accomplishments. There were so many honorees, from a woman who is the head of an organization for head injuries, to a pastor of a church that works to help youth in her community become more involved with appreciation for the arts. The event was held at the Tilles Center, on the campus of Long Island University, my alma mater.

My co-chapter leader was the first one recognized, and she was very humble when she was interviewed. Like many NSA teammates, she has faced many professional challenges. An original accountant, she struggled with her speech and eventually decided to pursue her Master's degree as an SLP practitioner. One school actually told her she'd never make it because of her speech. Not only does she have her own practice, and she's running (along with another of my teammates) the TWST (Teens Who Stutter) chapter, she lectures at schools. But that's just only a measure of the true impact she has.

I never felt in my life that I wanted to volunteer for anything...after all, I used to subscribe to the theory that "You just can't fight City Hall." But it was my co-chapter leader, along two other teammates, who challenged me to be a chapter leader. They saw the fire and desire in my eyes. It's because of them that I went from just "speaking" to "speaking with passion." There IS a difference between communicating and speaking. But now I know that we all have the power to make a difference. I firmly believe that I've been given a special gift, to help my teammates who stutter in any way possible. I absolutely love my meetings the third Thursday of the month when we all come together.

The biggest thrill, though, was yet to come. Two women approached Lori, one of which had a 14-year old son who stutters. She began to get so emotional talking about it, and just to sit back and watch her speak to the mother was truly inspirational. I was there merely as a supporter, for this was her night to shine. I always end my blog with "Stand up and be counted, make your voice heard." I guarantee you, her voice was heard loud and clear that night, and she received a tremendous amount of congratulatory accolades.

Before I left, though, I had the pleasure to chat with the publisher of The Long Island Press, who is very civically active and has had active interests not just in radio, but print media and making the Island a better place to live. I was discussing with him how I got started in journalism, and how I grew disillusioned that everything now is about money when it comes to media, and how writing used to be about calling out others for their wrongdoings. I doubt I will ever go back to journalism again, but to be honest, maybe my writing skills haven't faded. Especially with this blog, I never run out of things to say. And if you're an NSA teammate, you will never run out of things to say.

It's nights like these that make me celebrate the greatest power anyone can have: To stand in front of the mirror, or anywhere, and say: "I WILL make a difference today."

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person that stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Do you want an NSA teammate to lose respect for you? Then say these words...

Good evening everyone,

As we turn the page to fall, I must say I love this time of the year. Not because it's the calm before the raw winter nights with crisp air that pierce our senses, not because it's kickoff for the NFL and fall festivals, but because there's something about September that gets me all revved up-the feeling of knowing that there is so much more to accomplish in life and for the cause of stuttering as well.

I wanted to use this edition of my blog to talk about an action that has a dire consequence. One of the very first lessons I learned as a teammate who was getting involved with the NSA was to respect myself-and respecting yourself means others. We've all had situations at jobs where there may be a colleague that we just can't stand, who has annoying habits that drive us up the wall-maybe it's playing the music loud, or taking credit for something we might have contributed to making the workplace productive. I love my teammates, and I also know that are times we can get on each other's nerves. But there's one phrase that will guarantee that an NSA teammate will lose all respect for you, and you'll never get it back. Just say these words, and here they are:

"You threw me under the bus."

This phrase has probably been uttered countless times in the sports locker rooms, but it doesn't have more of an impact than it does today. Being a teammate and a leader in the NSA means accepting that we need to come together for the sake of greater glory. Watch what happens when it's reported that someone complains that another is being paid more, and then it is blown up in the media, because things like that should be kept in-house. Too many times in high school and college I was teased and rather than stand up for myself, I would run to the principal to make the problem go away. The more appropriate thing to do would have been to stand up for myself and approach the person face-to-face and try to work the problem out. Instead, I threw him under the bus. And along with that, I lost my self-respect in the process.

When I think of the phrase "to throw someone under the bus," I think about NHL star forward Dany Heatley. A good scorer, yes, but a very poor teammate. If you don't know his story, Heatley was drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers and suffered through a very emotionally trying experience: he was charged with vehicular homicide when he drove too fast and killed his teammate. The family of the teammate who died (Dan Snyder) could have told him to go to hell, and they would have been justified in saying so. But the Thrashers team and community supported him, even saying nothing would be gained by imprisoning him. And how did Heatley respond? He asked to be traded. He moved to the Ottawa Senators, and complained about how he was being treated. The coach found it "hard to accept," and he was again dealt-a reputation follows you everywhere. If you care about yourself and your fellow teammates, don't ever throw one under the bus. My relationships with my NSA teammates mean everything to me. They are a very important part of my life, and need to be cherished. So do your relationships.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My teammates and I don't know what it means to second-guess!

Good evening everyone,

It's so amazing to me how you can have such an insightful conversation with anyone wherever you are. You could be on line at the local cafe, waiting to buy that new must-have electronic device at the local department store, or just stopping to chat with a passerby walking their dog. Yesterday, I happened to have one of those conversations. Wednesday night is my late night because after work, I have speech therapy at 8 p.m. There's a gap of three hours between the time I leave work, and that's because rather than drive one hour in the opposite direction, I'll go get dinner and spend the rest of my time walking by the marina to get my daily exercise.

Well, I stopped off at a local place called Vinny's Mulberry Street. The food there happens to be great, but it's a place I love because my speech therapist's brother-in-law owns it, and he treats me well. (No, I don't get free food LOL). This was a weeknight and for the most part it was all quiet, just me coming in and the waitresses chatting in the back amongst themselves. The server (her name was "Jessica") came up to greet me and about half an hour later, while I was in the midst enjoying a date with a dish of baked ziti and a side of meatballs, she asked how everything was, and we struck up a conversation. It turns out that she was a recent college graduate, and like many others, was struggling to find work in this economy. She was looking to move to New York City and begin her career in fashion marketing/advertising. She was waiting while she was looking for work, and said she was proud that she was making an honest living. But toward the end, she made a comment about the circumstance she found herself in. She said "I took a year off because of some things I had to take care of. Everyone else I know has jobs. Maybe if I continued my studies, I would have found something by now."

We often second-guess ourselves because that's human nature. In fact, there's a term that someone I know uses to describe that practice: "overanalysis paralysis." We watch "It's A Wonderful Life" and wonder what would have happened if we weren't born. We think about the paths we took....and who we dated and fell in love with, thinking about what may have happened if it was another person. But the truth be told, second-guessing doesn't give us any real comfort. The only thing we can do is move forward and let our future be written by ourselves.

I too have had two major decisions in my life, and one of them I do admit I second-guessed for a long time until I realized that the moment I thought about the past was the moment I start to live in it. Although I am a native Long Islander, I once lived out of state in Maryland in a rural community. It was really unlike anything I'd known, I moved down there to accept a job offer. I distinctly remember driving through Dover, Del., and once you go through there, you cross the Mason-Dixon line, which officially separates the north from the south, and boy, did things change....NASCAR signs, biblical signs, I wondered what did I get myself into. It didn't work out down there, but I learned a great deal about myself-people down there work hard for a living just like you and I do, but it's done in different ways. Maybe they don't wear business attire, but they are up early with farmer's hours. I have great respect for that. I learned that country music does rock. In fact, I do get it when someone thinks a tractor is sexy.

I remember my parents for the longest time second-guessed my trip to Long Beach for the NSA conference that forever changed my life in so many ways. I don't have room in my life for second-guessing, and neither should you. We all make mistakes, we're human. And we do learn from experience. I learned that second-guessing should not be a part of the way you act and what you do.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person that stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Farewell to the summer of 2009, thank you for showing me how amazing it is to fall in love!

Good evening all my teammates,

The mercury climbed to 80 degrees here on Long Island, with not a cloud to be seen for miles, and golden sunshine splashing faces from Manhattan to the Hamptons and far as the eye can see. For some, there were barbecues to attend, beaches to bike to, or that last margarita which would taste so very sweet and last a whole year until it was time to open the bottle again. Labor Day often brings sadness because it means the summer has come to an end, and we will now return to the transtional stages of life-back to your school, the return to more crisp and raw weather, the snot rockets flying around. I too, like many others, used to feel that way. But this Labor Day, as I say goodbye to the summer of 2009, I also have to say thank you-because for the first time in my life, I am in love. I mean real love...with the National Stuttering Association.

In the course of life, we often search for some things that we know money will never buy. In those cases, it seems like the harder we look, the more elusive it becomes. Yet we often realize that sometimes the one thing we're looking for the most is the one that is right in front of us, and we fail to realize it. This past summer, my time in Arizona has led me to find the sheer joy of love-love of myself, love of the challenges I can face, and love of the most amazing teammates in the world.

One thing that I can say emphatically that I have found is the ability to BE. I was reading an article in The Sporting News called "Kids at Play" and there was a section dedicated to Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and it was discussing the situation of how he handled the responsibility of being the captain of an NHL team at 20. I love being able to relate to hockey because that sport, above many others, demonstrate passion and teamwork because of multiple lines all working as one. Think about this quote: "A leader isn't a position, it's something you become." I tried to analyze it because you can apply it in so many ways. How does one become a leader? Well, you become one by relating to teammates. You continually reach out to your teammates time and again and emphasize the mission that needs to be completed. My mission, like other teammates, is to share the NSA with the world. Of course, some may tune me out, and if they do, I don't care. You will find out about the NSA and I, along with my teammates, will be the one to share it.

When I first attended my inuaugural conference in Long Beach, I never ever could have seen myself growing into a leader. But now, because of my journeys with the NSA, I am in love. I am in love with the workshops that are given. I am in love with seeing teammates undergo the metmorphisis, how they come in so anxious and leave with nothing but the bright confidence that will never go out.

May your summer have shown you what it is like to fall in love, and may the next seasons now and forever give you those feelings to keep your fire lit!!!

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

It's not so bad to be part of the human race.....

Good morning all my teammates around the world,

Today I was walking past the local CVS and couldn't help overhearing a very interesting conversation. Two elderly gentlemen were palying chess on a bench and they were sharing what they thought was the meaning of life, and I was passing them by, I experienced how fast emotions can change. Apparently the person who thought they were winning ended up being in checkmate, and I heard some very "ungentlemanly" like language.

The reason why I started off with this anecdote is because I had an experience like that recently, going from the high to the low point, and when I crashed, I really crashed. A couple of days ago, I had applied online for a customer service representative job with an upscale real estate property management company, and received an email to schedule a phone interview. Now as many NSA teammates would tell you, interviews are often the most challenging of everyday situations-for some it's ordering in a restaurant, others it may be walking up to a multiplex and buying a ticket at the box office, like me. That also includes in-person interviews, too. I can't explain this, but for some reason I'm more fluent on the phone than in real-life. There's actually a term coined the "Ma Bell Syndrome" to describe the intense fear of speaking on the phone. Well, the day came and went, and I was feeling very confident after I hung up the phone-I was not 100 percent fluent, and no one can ever claim they are, but I'd say I was 70 percent, and that to me is success. I proudly spoke about my NSA experience as it relates to leadership and teamwork, and the recruiter seemed really impressed. And then came the day after.

I logged onto my email and found an email from the company. I was gleefully opening it when I fixated on those dreaded words: "We decided to go in a different direction, and this in no way reflects on....." I began to quietly weep.....and then the dam burst. I started to cry, and let it all out. I've been struggling to find work for almost two years, but the NSA keeps me focused on what I need to do.

I always like to think I'm a person who is very emotional, even when I shouldn't be. I make no apologies for that. I'm human, after all. I hurt like others hurt, and feel like others do. This was a promising lead, and it just vanished. I tried not to let it get to me, but it did. And then, I felt the tide turn because of an email I got....from an NSA teammate.

I sent an NSA teammate of mine an email just to say hello-he was a presenter with another NSA teammate from the Midwest. He happened to attend my workshop and said it was great to hear from me, and that he enjoyed my seminar, and said "You're a commanding speaker." Just like that, my day turned around completely. That is the power of the NSA, and why I will always say the NSA is my rock, my strength, and my courage to do what's right. This was a setback for me. But I will rebound. Already I feel that somewhere out there, an employer will want to hire me. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but soon. And I'll look back on this lesson and realize that it's not really so bad to be part of the human race...when you know the NSA stands with you.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Miley Cyrus is not a role model....but the NSA teammates are!

Good morning everyone,

It's 12:30 on a Monday morning, only the start of life after the midnight hour, and as I am writing this latest edition of my blog, I'm listening to "Party In The USA" by Miley Cyrus and trying my hardest to understand why America seems to be in a snit about her performance on a certain awards show recently. So many parents can't understand why their teen daughters worship the ground that Miley Cyrus walks on, and why she's regarded as a "role model." And that brings us to the topic of today's blog-just who is a role model? Well, it sure as hell isn't Miley. If you asked me that question a few years ago, maybe I'd have said Derek Jeter. But the truth is now we're all role models. All of my teammates are role models, and although I am a chapter leader, I hold myself to an even higher standard. But even if I wasn't, as a teammate who stutters, I know I have to represent myself as a member of society who showcases all that he is: and my stuttering doesn't make me any less of a citizen.

For a long time in my life, throughout the days of high school and college and feeling tormented, building walls of emotional hurt and wreckage in my own prison, I could never accept being given a compliment. Even in the classroom I still struggled with social demons, imagined or not. If I received a compliment on a good paper I wrote, I'd be the first to say "Well it was someone else" rather than being acknowledged for my efforts. It would have been hard for me to see myself as someone who should be emulated. It wasn't until I took an introductory journalism class in college that I saw the true definition of a role model-one whose door was open to me at all times, one who bared her soul and was not just my professor, but my mentor. It's hard to believe in anything these days with all the negativity flying around, but I believe in the National Stuttering Association more than anything else.

I also used to be one who felt justified in putting others down to make me feel better about the fact that I felt like a weirdo and "freak" who stuttered. At these NSA conferences, a common theme expressed by parents and teammates who are first-timers is that "They wish that an organization like this existed long before," or that "We wish we found out about this sooner." I felt that if I had to suffer through a painful existence of spitting my words out and trying in vain to unlock the physical wheels spinning in my throat, then I'd make others feel my pain. The only thing I did accomplish was alienating my peers. How I wish I could change those times.

I am a firm believer that trauma does not have to be negative. In some ways, it can act as a blinding light, shining its soul onto us to do things with our life to better the quality of others. Sometimes the blows are harsh and very brutal to bear-the sudden death of a loved one, which was a thunderbolt out of a clear blue sky. The loss of a job we love. My feelings of emotional trauma and a sheltered world of hurt, loneliness and tears led me to the National Stuttering Association. At this past conference, when I meet teammates for the first time, I identify myself as an NSA chapter leader. Of course we all wear ID badges and all, but to say that also shows my teammates that I refuse to give in to my stuttering. I stand up for others, and whenever there's a challenge with stuttering, I'll be there.

If you have the chance to attend an NSA conference, I want you to look around at all our teammates-it's not just those presenting workshops, or speaking at an Open Mike session, or volunteering at a table. The fact that all our teammates are together speaks volumes about the mission of the NSA, the desire to be something bigger than ourselves. I can show you role models from all ages and all backgrounds: How about a speech pathologist who was actually told by an SLP program she'd never make it because she stutters? How about an attorney who is going into lobbying? I am a role model....and all my NSA teammates are.

In a recent article, there was an interview with Drew Brees, the quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, and when talking about his charitable work, he said "We're all role models. Some of us just realize it before others do." Yes, I am a huge fan of Derek Jeter. But as for being a role model....I think Derek Jeter couldn't hold a candle to 600+ teammates.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Is the NSA "Cool?" You bet it is!

Good evening everyone,

It's no secret that I am very passionate about the National Stuttering Association and I love it with all my heart and soul. Whenever there's a chance to advertise it, I'll do so. If there's an opening where I can talk about it, I'll happily take advantage of it. The funny thing about life and these opportunities, though, is you never know when and where the chances will be presented.

A few weeks ago, maybe a few days after returning home from Arizona, I had to bring my car into a body shop to be repaired because there was a scratch on the door, having been keyed. As I was in the Enterprise rental facility, I happened to be talking with the customer service representative behind the desk, and I mentioned I had returned from a conference out west. Naturally, she grew curious, and I happily shared with her all the details about the NSA experience in Arizona, which was also enhanced by my T-shirt from the most magical experience of my life. They say you never forget your first time, and Long Beach will always be the one I'll remember for the rest of my life. Atlanta was the one where I knew I wanted to fall for a Southern woman (and more LOL), North Jersey was a quantum leap for me, but Arizona was something else. As she and I began to talk further, I could see her eyes lighting up with fiery intensity, wanting to know all she could about this organization that I am head-over-heels in love with. Eventually after ten minutes, my car was ready, and we went our own separate ways, but I'll never forget how she ended the conversation. "I think it's so cool how you all have this special thing in your life," she said.

When I was younger and in my teen/college years, I doubt me or any of my teammates would have used the word "cool" to describe anything related to stuttering or the NSA. In fact, most of us would rather lock those memories away and imagine they never happened. Teasing is not cool. Bullying is not cool. Not being able to say hello and participate in social activities, and as a result feeling like you have live alienated from the rest of the modern world is not cool. But flying back home on Southwest to Long Island, I had the pleasure of sitting next to a woman who was a college lacrosse coach, who had accepted a position with a school in New Jersey. I was on one side of her, and one of my NSA teammates who was on the same flight with me was on the other side. And we too shared our stories with her, and we all enjoyed a great conversation. Hearing a complete stranger say how amazing the NSA is was such a powerful thing that I was experiencing the feeling that anything is possible.

I know in today's world, sometimes it's hard to find the genuine qualities in people. You sometimes don't know if they're really interested, or they're just saying "Oh, that's nice," because it's really impolite to be rude. Before I found the NSA, I would travel and keep to myself. And as I've grown socially, I feel that I've undergone the complete metamorphisis into a social butterfly. It really is about the journey, and I am learning that patience is a value we need to have. We all have things that we want, and want them now. Sometimes we'll get them, and other times we need to wait for the right opportunities to present itself. But I promise you this, and this is for all my teammates to hear: I'm going to be heard. I'm going to spread the love I have for the NSA all over this world. Do you know why? Because when you love something this much, you're going to want the whole world to see it. I know what I'm fighting for-to make the world aware of the National Stuttering Association. My teammates fight with me.

My name is Steven Kaufman, and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Everyone's sorry for something....I will never be sorry for stuttering!

Good evening everyone,

The summer often goes by so fast, and although I'm a fan of those cold, raw, and numbing winter nights, I have to admit that summer is growing on me. Not just because my summers belong to the National Stuttering Association, as every day of my life does because my involvement with them is the heartbeat of my world, but because summertime is all about movies. The studios bring out their "big guns," so to speak...all those jaw-dropping special effects that keep us coming back for me. And sometimes the movies released during the summer often have characters that we can relate to more because of the complexities of their depth.

Last night, I went to see "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," which I was a big fan of based on their Super Bowl teaser trailer. Toward the middle of the movie, one of the main characters is captured by the enemy-the enemy in this case is a character named The Baroness, and the kidnapped is Duke. It turns out that at one time they were both romantically involved with each other, and her path led her to the opposition. One of the lines she utters is "Everyone's sorry for something," a reference to how Duke got her brother killed on a mission even though he promised at graduation he'd look out for him. Feeling betrayed, she decided to get even by playing for the other team.

In regards to stuttering, more so in younger days, that's exactly how I felt. Several times on my blog I've made reference to a very important line that my speech pathologist has told me: "You don't feel bad because you stutter, you feel bad for the other person who has to listen to you." I did feel bad....I felt bad when I raised my hand in class and was ignored. I felt bad when I went up to someone to say hello and as I was fumbling the words, the other person's face expressions turned away from me. I felt bad when my family used to go out to the local diner on Saturday nights and my dad, thinking he was helping me by making me order for the whole family, had to hear me struggle asking for four entrees, and then at the end, saying "You could be better."

We all have faced times in our lives when we wish, sometimes in vain, to turn the clock back. We want to reverse a wrong-maybe we said something we shouldn't have, we lied and got caught in it. Sometimes we wished we didn't stutter. I used to feel that I was sorry I stuttered...that it was all my fault, and my cross to bear alone. Sadly, my mom didn't think so since she said Jews don't have crosses to bear, LOL..had to interject somer humor. But the more I think I about it, I know I will never be sorry for stuttering. I will never be sorry for blocking on a word. The teammates who stutter around the world have no reason to apologize for their speech. We never have....and we surely never will.

If you are a teammate who wants to join the world's biggest advocacy organization for those who stutter, please visit the National Stuttering Association web site at, and remember: In the eyes of the NSA, the word "apologizes" never exists.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Do we go "back to school" as teammates who stutter?

Good evening everyone,

I want to apologize to those teammates around the world for not posting in a few days. After seven years of being good to me, my computer finally gave out and went to the big cyber-heaven in the now I am resurrected stronger than ever, thanks to a brand spanking new HP desktop. And now, I can return to updating my blog, which I love so much.

It's the first few days of August, and depending on where you live, your thoughts may be running the gauntlet on any number of topics: How to hold on to those precious summer days, maybe you're prepping for college entrance exams or GRE work, plotting your Labor Day weekend getaway. As I was picking up my computer at Best Buy, I couldn't help but be inundated with advertisements for those "back-to-school" sales. And when I think of back-to-school, I can't help but wonder: Do we ever go "back-to-school" as teammates who stutter?

Like with most things in life, we as human beings never stay complacent. We can't afford to do so in so many ways, not with the way things are today. What worked today may not necessarily work tomorrow. As teammates who stutter, we are all students, no matter how old we are. There's always that sense of dread as September approaches. After all, on the first day of school, you hit the snooze bar, and you want to eke out every precious minute of freedom with the bed that you have. Believe me, I felt the same way. But I am 31 now, and my life is beginning again. Every day I used to wake up and determined that my only motivation is making it to the end of the day, or waiting for that paycheck to come. But now every day is another chance for me: you see, it's another chance for me to share with the world. Another chance to hear, and be heard. And most important of all, another chance for me to share the love of the National Stuttering Association.

On that first day of school, when you walk into the class, in a way it's like playing the lottery. You just don't know what kind of teacher you will have. Maybe you'll get the cool one....or the one who just speaks in a flat monotone all year long. Sometimes those teachers though are the ones who pass on the most important lessons. But, my teachers don't necessarily teach in schools. What do I mean by that? Well, my teammates at the NSA are teachers. I embrace their lessons every day. I learned from one of my teaching teammates that the choice is yours whether you have a good day or a terrible day. I learned from another one that it is OK, and encouraged, to advertise your stuttering. And they're at opposite ends of the spectrum: the former is retired, the latter is a college student. But they teach you....and it's never forgotten.

Our school year doesn't begin in September. For the NSA, it's every day. But instead of packing a textbook and graphing calculator (ah the days of yesteryear!), the most important thing you need to bring is an open mind. A willingness to embrace your stutter. And the knowledge that in order to learn, you must want to be taught. If you'd like to learn about us, check out We're ready to teach. Always have been, and always will be.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Do we really have to walk alone?

Good evening everyone,

The National Stuttering Association offers teammates so many opportunities which are not necessarily restricted to social or professional categories. When I travel to these conferences, I relish the chance to be an absolute beginner when it comes to learning-and it's not just about stuttering, but life in general. I take pride in meeting and relating to all my teammates, regardless of whether they are the young first-timers or seasoned veterans. But sometimes you find yourself a participant in a conversation and you are intrigued about something, and no matter how long after the chat ends, you can't help but want to think about some more.

On the last night of the conference, I am very emotional because the banquet, while it is sheer exuberance, is also bittersweet, marking the end. The next day, we all go back to our jobs and cell phone messages to respond to, as life resumes. But it was at this time that I happened to be talking with one of my teammates who was attending for the second time. He works in law enforcement and as we were chatting, I asked him if he would ever want (or had wanted) to bring his wife to a conference. He's very happily married, and it's not at all uncommon to meet one's future girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband at the NSA conferences. I've met many teammates who have brought their significant other or current partner with them, and while one of them may stutter, the other teammate gets just as much out of the workshops and social gatherings too. After all, something like this which is so empowering, so grand and dazzling that the human spirit that we feel at times may have been extinguished because of our negative experiences is burning brightly than might want surely to share this with your loved ones. And when I asked him about it, he said (and perhaps to my surprise) that chances are he would not bring his wife, as he cited (and I am paraphrasing) "This is a path that I have to walk alone."

I couldn't help but think about that for a few days afterward. In some ways, I do surely empathize with how he feels. It can be very easy to say "Well try walking a mile in my shoes and see how it is," and I do admit that before I found the NSA that was a sentiment I shared. I had a heart that was filled for hate-not just myself because of the vocal spasms I had to endure and the feeling of being probed under a social microscope, but for others who were able to express themselves clearly. My speech therapist (who ironically does not stutter) has told me time and again that "you do not feel bad because you stutter, you feel bad for the others who have to listen to you." Not anymore. I say what's on my mind, and you will hear it. Even if you choose to tune me out, you're still going to hear it. My heart now is filled with the greatest love in the world for the NSA.

For many teammates, it is conceivable that it can take a great traveling of many steps to attend an NSA conference. As a chapter leader, I consistently encourage all my teammates to attend. But even if I wasn't a chapter leader, I would still do it anyway. Am I selling the NSA? Yes! Do I advertise the NSA? Of course...but that's for a whole other blog entry. I don't get anything out of it but the pride of seeing a teammate who stutters enjoying their time. At the banquet and throughout, I would often venture up to the first-timers and say "Are you having a great time?" And as if on cue, the answers are an enthusiastic yes with a big smile. There's laughter, there's tears...but most of all, there's LIFE....on full display!

I don't attend these conferences looking to meet my future girlfriend/fiancee. If it happens, that's all well and good, and it will definitely be a big bonus. But regardless, I would hope she would want to attend an NSA conference and see the experience. And if she doesn't, that's OK too. Just as long as she knows the NSA will always come first in my life. I used to walk alone....but I've got 600+ teammates who walk with me. If you want a friend, go to MySpace. If you want a teammate, come to the NSA. We will walk together with you.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Karma, Arizona, and building your base of teammates!

Good evening everyone,

One of the biggest highlights when the National Stuttering Association annual conference is ongoing is the Friday night activity selection, of which a baseball game is usually incorporated. Although I missed out on the Angels game in Long Beach because I signed up at the last minute, I do not miss the game when the tickets go on sale for teammates to purchase. From a Braves-Nationals affair in Atlanta, to the Subway Series in New York, you can't beat the thrill of chatting with your teammates and falling in love all over again with the NSA over a hot dog and cold beer. This year, about 100+ teammates and I went to Chase Field to see the Arizona Diamondbacks host the Florida Marlins. As I was perusing the free program, I wanted to share some observations on a column written by Derrick M. Hall, the CEO of the team. He acknowledges that while the season has been a challenge, he also knows that "it is in trying times that fan bases are established." He also writes how he admires those other organizations who may not win yearly, but still have devout followers.

I like to think of the NSA as the world's greatest fan club for teammates who stutter. Or, as one of my other teammates unofficially coined the phrase "The world's biggest block party." However, at one time the NSA was dangerously close to closing it doors forever. I am frightened to think of a world where this truly amazing organization would not exist. At this past conference, we set a record with 160 first-timers, who have experienced the power and love of the National Stuttering Association and what we do. Some of them, when they find out that at one time we almost ceased to exist, are puzzled as to why. Similar to what Mr. Hall wrote, it is in these times when we find out who stands with the NSA and who doesn't.

I always enjoy watching the auction, and listening to the opening remarks by our auctioneer. Our auctioneer is an inductee into the NSA Hall of Fame, as well as a caring veterinarian. And while we do actively raise funds because we are nonprofit, we too also know that our teammates will stand up for the NSA. I hope to participate next year in the auction, in addition to donating in any way I can.

At the opening ceremonies, our chair spoke about how the NSA is now the single biggest support organization for teammates who stutter. To think a few years ago how we were struggling and now, to run full-page advertisements in absolutely makes me proud....and forever honored to be part of the NSA. Now is the time to get involved. If you can't donate money, donate your time. Write. Help us with our web site. Prepare fundraising letters. As the theme from "Rent" goes, "There is no day but today!"

And to close on an interesting note.....I am a firm believer in karma. What you give really will come back to you. On the night we went to the game, Friday, July 10, 2009, the Arizona Diamondbacks were in last place. (they still are, and probably will be for the rest of the year). Wouldn't you know, the home team won 9-0, with Dan Haren throwing a complete game, six-hit shutout. And to top it all off....we had 602 teammates in attendance. The area code for Phoenix just happens to be 602. Some things really are special magic, and you know you were blessed to be part of it. I definitely was. So were 602 other teammates.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

It Can Be Sunny....If You Want It To Be

Good evening everyone,

One of the greatest attributes that the NSA conference offers is the chance to not just interact with teammates in a positive environment, but the continued chance to do so year-round through social networking sites. While the conference physically takes four days, it’s undeniable that the power, passion, and purpose (try saying that three times fast!) goes on 24/7/365. Stuttering knows no offseason, and neither does our resolve.

Recently I posted a message about how life really is beautiful when you stutter, and I received an interesting response from one of my teammates. This teammate attended the conference in North Jersey 2008, but was not able to make it to Arizona for this year. Last year, he was what we call a “first-timer” (we all were at one time), and he too, was swept up in the infectious enthusiasm and joy of becoming an NSA teammate-learning that he is not alone, and having the time of his life, learning and celebrating all that stuttering is and what it will be: we laugh, we cry, we share as one.

The response that I received was one of whether stuttering is a gift or a curse, which is one of the frequently asked questions amongst NSA teammates. For those who understand it, and who have persevered despite the innumerable setbacks we’ve had, you may understand why they feel like it is a gift, like I do. However, at the opposite end of the spectrum, there is extreme anger at being a teammate who stutters. Anger and hatred, of one’s self, of the world they see and have become accustomed to. It is because of this world that in his/her eyes, a new world is created: where love is lost, darkness envelops the light, and all hope for transforming their life is gone. This response ended with “Unfortunately, we all can’t be as positive as you are, Steven.”

Although I am very proud and open with the fact that I stutter, I relate very well to these sentiments that this teammate is thinking, because I was him. On some days, I do echo those sentiments. Open up the newspaper on a given day, and we see evidence the world is going down the toilet: another company is laying people off and cutting jobs. The fingers are pointed everywhere except at those who are responsible. I face great challenges, we all do. I am looking for full-time work and yet I too struggle at interviews, and in social situations. I do not know how to explain this, but I have made great strides socially and for that, I am forever indebted to the sole reason why that has happened, the NSA. I love going up to teammates of all diverse age and backgrounds and talking with them, learning about their passions and their lives-what their hopes and dreams are.

I also understand that each teammate of mine is at different points on their journey of self-acceptance as a person who stutters. For some teammates, coming to this conference was a major step in embracing who they are, and finding out they need not have to fear their stuttering. For others, they are hurting and scared. My advice to them is there is nothing to fear. The NSA stands up for all.

I recently went to the movies, and found a quote from a trailer that could very well sum up the NSA perfectly. Paramount Pictures is releasing a version “G.I. Joe” later this summer, and one of the characters says “When all else fails, we don’t.” The NSA will never fail to take care of their own-because we take care of each other.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Good evening everyone,

The years of our lives are often filled with peaks and valleys, as the expression goes. We have times when we feel so alive, transformed into dazzling and powerful human beings, and then we experience those times that try our souls, as Thomas Paine used to say. And then, we have times that you count down the whole year for, to be in a certain environment where time stands still. Where you are free to be yourself, to share, to challenge yourself and your beliefs about stuttering. That time came and passed, and it never gets old. It is what I live for, and we strive to attend each year in the summer. I give you the National Stuttering Association 2009 Annual Conference.

This year has been one of the most demanding. We're living in unprecedented times right now. And when the NSA announced that we were going to be in Scottsdale, in July....the voices were raised: "Do you know how hot it's going to be?" was the most asked question. But if you really think about it, the site of the conference doesn't matter as much as the substance. Yes, it's nice to get on a sold-out plane and have so much space to move about the country (note the sarcasm, although I love Southwest), but I wouldn't care if the conference was held on a dude ranch in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I will follow the NSA anywhere.

I have had the honor of presenting my workshop for two straight conferences. There's no greater honor than standing up in front of your peers and helping them reach deep down in their souls and make them examine and then re-examine their feelings on stuttering. At this conference, we had 600 teammates in attendance, and about 160 of those were first-timers. A record number for the NSA, for sure. I never get tired of watching the metamorphisis of teens and adults who come in feeling so frightened, and by the end, they're laughing, dancing, and sharing.

This year's conference, by the nature of the fact that we held it at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, had a distinctly unique summer-camp feel to it. During the wee hours of the morning (and doesn't it feel good to be swimming at 1 am West Coast time), many of my teammates were just gathered by the pool, laughing, commenting about life, our goals, and our dreams. In some ways, we all live vicariously through each other. Our goals are each other's goals. We triumph together, we cry together.

All the conferences I've attended (and it's been four so far) have been unique in its own identity. But this one has a special place in my heart because I now know, that I am in love with the National Stuttering Association. This conference had moments you always remember: You remember what it feels like to connect so powerfully and talk about your stuttering with another teammate. You remember that you wake up, and no matter how angry or frustrated you get, you know that there's a place where we are all accepted and welcome.

Was it hot in Scottsdale? Of course it was. (Then again, coming from someone who wore a Yankees jacket out there, it may not have been at all). But it's safe to say that while Arizona brought the heat, we also brought hotter heat: More chapters are getting started, more teammates want to present seminars.....I'm crying as I write this because it is special. I love my teammates and would give anything if they needed it.

To my NSA teammates, I love you forever. To those future teammates who want to join us, please check out It may be the best decision you ever made. There are 160 teammates who will very happily give you references.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I celebrated my Independence Day without barbecues....

Good evening everyone,

I want to begin this edition of the blog by apologizing for a little bit of a lapse with new postings. In the next few days you will see more and more entries from me, as I just have returned home from what may very well be described as the crown jewel of NSA all the years that this amazing conference has been in existence, this past gathering of teammates from around the continental U.S. and the world may have been the most special of all. And although Independence Day has passed, I'd like to focus on it, if you'll permit me.

Independence Day is always celebrated by remembering the veterans and heroes who gave their lives for this country to allow us to enjoy the freedoms-the freedom to say our thoughts and not be retaliated against, the freedom to go as we please. For some, it's seen as the halfway point that the summer of 2009 is over, for others, a perfect reason to bring out the barbecue and throw the burgers and hot dogs on the grill, along with ice cold beverages, and watch the local ballgame. It's about experiencing pride as you see the fireworks explode over the nation's capital in poetic motion, as the 1812 Overture blasts over the loudspeakers. But I want to tell you about a special way I celebrated Independence Day, and it wasn't even in July.

For those who have my followed my blog, you know have I often spoken about how my days of Long Beach, Calif., have permanently altered my life forever. We often speak of defining moments in our lives, for these are the ones you remember forever, exactly what you did and where you were. The experiences I had at the Long Beach conference were my Independence Day. I took a stand. I gave my feelings about being angry that I stuttered a positive voice. I stopped running, and faced my frustrations and anxieties head-on, and with the support of my teammates, many of whom I keep in touch with to this day. Was the road long? Sure. Did I fall a few times? Well, of course I did. I wouldn't be human if I didn't. Traveling to the other side of the coast led to my Independence Day. I really wish that everyone could experience the sheer joy and power of this event, but I know for some they may be unable to. Or they might want to work up the strength to do so.

You can make your own Independence Day happen, though. The moment you say, "I am going to speak my mind," that's your Independence Day. When you decide that others are going to listen to you, no matter how long it takes, that's when your Independence Day begins. Maybe it's July 4. Maybe it's April 13th. Or just perhaps it could be tomorrow. But celebrate Independence Day from stuttering every day!!

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A story about Michael Jackson and your reputation as a teammate who stutters.....

Good evening everyone,

It seems hard to believe that Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, was taken from us before his time. It's appropriate though since that this is one of the biggest news stories of our lifetime, that I use my blog to focus on what we can learn from his passing as teammates who stutter. Someone recently made an observation that the media seems to be fawning over the positive contributions he made, but no one seems able (or willing) to talk about the trial he had to endure, and his bizarre behaviors, especially where there were young children-which is what many people will unfortunately remember.

When I was growing up and facing the horrors of the social jungle known as high school, upon graduation I never realized just how many scars I had inflicted on myself and others. The greatest asset we have is our reputation, and it does follow you everywhere you go. I did a lot of stupid things I'll never be able to take back, and in some ways, I attribute that to being a person who stutters. When you feel like the outcast, you want to be talked about, even in an unflattering manner because it means people know who you are. I disobeyed teachers, played the role of the extremely crude class clown. Unfortunately for me, I lived (and still do) in a town which is very close-knit where everyone knows each other. I'm just starting to climb out of the self-induced hole I dug for myself. The National Stuttering Association is entirely responsible for allowing me to do that.

I'd like to say that the world is not a judgmental place. Although I wish so many times that's not the case, it can never turn out like that. If you think about it, we all judge: ourselves, each other, the clothes we wear, the items we buy. We make decisions all the time and rarely do we think about the consequences until it's too late. I enjoy a good time as much as the next one does, but I also believe that whether or not you acknowledge it, you are a role model as a teammate who stutters. What you believe and how you conduct yourself will go a long way toward determining what kind of values you'll have. Our annual conference is coming up, and of course I will be there to celebrate all that stuttering is with my teammates. But one thing I never take for granted is my reputation. When a teammate comes up to me who meets me for the first time and says "Oh, I've heard of do such great work for the NSA," that's my reputation at work. I'm just one teammate out of 600+ who stand together and contribute to make the NSA what it is. We all acknowledge each other!

I am never leaving the NSA, and it will always be part of my life. But a few days ago, a person posed to me a philosophical question: "How do you want the NSA to describe you?"-Well, I know exactly how to answer. I'd say "Steven Kaufman is a fighter. He fights to empower and educate others, and never let anyone prevent him from saying what he wanted to."

There will always be disagreements with teammates about philosophies, and the ways of the world. But just to know that we can create our reputations and drive our forces for the good of a common goal is the most amazing feeling in the world. The last few days, I've been listening to "Man in the Mirror" often and I think of the one line that stands out: "If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change." Or better yet, take a look at your reputation. Be a role model and show yourself off to the world: I stutter, and I'm free to be!

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.