Tuesday, January 20, 2009

H-O-P-E...and it what it means to me.

Good evening everyone! Today at 12 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, the entire world became eyewitnesses to history. Barack Obama officially became the President of the United States of America, and is now the first African-American individual to hold the highest office in the world. For the first time sicne perhaps John F. Kennedy was in the White House, there's a buzz everywhere. A glow that can light the most darkest corners of the universe. Some may have felt that Obama's skin color was his disability. On this day, the only colors that mattered were red, white, and blue. The words you hear though tossed about with great frequency is "Hope." The promise of a fresh start. A chance to revitalize ourselves and this country.

I feel it's only poetic on this day to talk about hope, and what it gives a person who stutters. Like other people who stutter, I have had difficulties when it comes to speaking-and not just in classroom situations. The restaurant. The movie theater. Asking a woman out on a date. Even finding a good speech therapist. I went through a period where I went through five speech therapists in seven years time, until I gave up...which was the worst decision I ever could have done. If you are thinking about doing that, please reconsider immediately, as the consequences could be dire. When I quit speech therapy for good, my speech went so downhill it might have been considered off the map. My face would twist in agony as I tried to get the words out, to no avail. It took me seven years to return to speech therapy, after I felt like I was dangerously close to waving the white flag of surrender.

I use this section now to talk about hope. For a person who stutters, regardless of whether it's mild to moderate, do not allow anyone to take away hope from you. My late grandfather once told me the best advice was this: "Never, ever, take away hope from someone. It might be all they have." The National Stuttering Association gave me back hope, and now as a chapter leader, it is imperative, and my duty, to make sure everyone who stutters knows hope is burning, and the fire is alight. I have seen first-hand this is true. I've saw parents who bring a child or teen to our annual conferences, and they enter intimidated and frightened. Four days later, they're experiencing sheer joy and the smiles on their faces say it all. The parents are so overwhelmed that they too, break down and cry tears of joy. The NSA has received so many accolades and heartfelt notes of appreciation...saying "You gave my son (or daughter) hope." For the first time, every single barrier they've faced is gone...forever. Stuttering may have tried its hardest to break their heart long before "My Bloody Valentine 3D" ever did....but the NSA can, and does, put an end to those days. We personally see to it that we do.

I will close on this quote, which I think is very relevant. There's a scene in the movie "National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets" in which Ed Harris says, "A man has only one lifetime. But history can remember you forever." What kind of person who stutters do you want to be? Do you want to be someone who gave in and accepted that a speech impediment would deter all the goals you wanted to accomplish, or do you want to be a person who stutters who took the bull by the horns and DID? The choice is yours.

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

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