Thursday, April 16, 2009

Oh what a April 2009, not December 1963

Good evening everyone. I write this blog tonight still on one of the greatest adrenaline highs that I have experienced as a person who stutters. It is with great pleasure that I present to you this edition of the blog, with all the special meaning it entails. On Monday night, April 13, I saw power. I saw children and teens embrace glory and desire to hold it forever. And perhaps most importantly of all, I saw first-hand that you can be a person who stutters and have the confidence and the passion to take on the world at full throttle. This was the Our Time Theatre Benefit Gala, held at the Skirball Pavilion, located at New York University. Being a teammate at the National Stuttering Association as well as the Long Island Chapter Leader, I know there are many organizations that are devoted to the cause of stuttering awareness. I think it's imperative to support them. You've heard me say before that anyone can write a check, and that's all well and good. But to get involved-to show your support, to say "I CARE about what happens" has more of an impact than one can ever imagine. Our Time Theatre was founded a few years ago by one of my NSA teammates who is an actor who stutters. The vision of Our Time Theatre is to give children and teens who stutter an artistic venue where they can express themselves free of bullying and humilation. At this gala, there was a special performance by several members of varying ages and backgrounds, backed by numerous celebrity personalities who have appeared on the Great White Way. But to see these kids and teens feeling alive, and saying what they want, doing it the way they want to, is such an empowering experience. I will never forget one moment that night, which featured a speech written by a senior member of the group. Speaking about how she was on the verge of suicide because of her speech, she exclaimed "I stutter and I am so damn proud," there was such a thunderous ovation. This was her coming-out party. It makes me think of a line from the song "I Could Not Ask For More" by Edwin McCain: "These are the moments I'll remember all my life...I've got all I've waited for, and I could not ask for more." As the performance ended and I went upstairs for dinner, I had the honor of meeting some of these noteworthy actors/actresses and talking to them about the performance. I met a recording artist who has a family member who stutters. Some of them have been regulars at this event, but for a few this was their first time-and they too, were blown away by just how strong and overwhelming the Our Time Theatre kids are. They overwhelmed their speech, not the other way around. Before I left the Pavilion that night to catch the 11:09 back to the suburbs, I looked out the window and saw the skyline of the Empire State Building, standing ever so tall like a watchtower guarding the city, but yet welcoming you, like a long-lost friend stepping off a plane. We often identify the Statue of Liberty as the major symbol of New York, for freedom, security, and to welcome those who hope to make their goals achieveable. Well, for those who want to make their goals happen in the theatre, please check out Our Time, at New York City to me, has always loved the underdog, and in many ways, all the teammates who stutter may very well be considered underdogs because of all the challenges we face on a daily basis. I think that night, New York City embraced a few more underdogs. I know I did. 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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