Friday, January 30, 2009

Keep your reputation close...and safeguard it closer.

Good evening everyone,

As I write this blog, tonight there is a firestorm brewing in the Long Island/New York City area. Joe Torre, the former manager of my beloved New York Yankees, is under attack from all sides for writing a so-called "autobiography" (or tell-all, if you prefer) basically calling out his former team and making numerous hateful comments about so many players he coached. In essence, he bit the hand that fed him, and fed him so well. Now, his reputation will never be the same.

As a person who stutters, and also a chapter leader, I have now discovered that your reputation can, and will, follow you everywhere. These days, it seems like so many morals are going out the window. We see it all the time, with Ponzi schemes and a "win at all costs" mentality. We may feel we're immune, but as the saying goes, "pride comes before the fall," and then we lose sight of the things most precious to us: our reputations.

Holding a leadership position to me is not only a duty, but an honor and a calling. I never take it for granted. Growing up, high school was absolute hell. I don't know a single person who stuttered who would want to relive those days. Now, there's more pressure on teens in high school than ever before. My stutter was so severe that at times I wanted to (and did) act out just to get attention and be talked about. And I was....but the lesson I failed to learn was that people weren't laughing with me, but instead at me. In this day and age, no one wants negative attention. People will remember you for the matter how long it may take you to change. It doesn't go away.

When I was asked to be a chapter leader, I was scared. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't. But I also know that it means you're chosen because you have a commitment. A desire. A genuine feeling that you want to show others and lead by example. I plan to keep that reputation. I may not be very good at actions, but with words, I am eloquent and outspoken. I will always say what's on my mind. There are so many people who stutter out there who still are afraid to come forward. Their lips are haunted by the laughter of those tease...the fear of society shunning them. I promise to reach out to them, even if it is through email or IM, and let them know they aren't a stammerer or stutterer. They are a PERSON who stutters.

But even if I wasn't a chapter leader, being part of the NSA has shown me in so many ways about what it means to be part of the human race, whereas for a long time I wasn't. Joining the NSA is about RESPECT. I know when you type in caps it is the equivalent of shouting, and I don't mean to...please accept my apologies. I love my teammates, but most importantly, I RESPECT them. I RESPECT their differences and philosophies. I RESPECT their work ethic and commitment. If you stutter, the best thing you can do is be positive and continue to work hard to be fluent. And if you stutter, and hear the laughs, RESPECT yourself. You are worth it. And you will realize that you too will gain a reputation: as someone who believes stuttering does not have to identify who you are at all.

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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