Good evening everyone. As I write this edition of the blog, I literally am feeling such an overwhelming pride and deep indebtedness for the National Stuttering Association and what can happen when teammates from different regions come together for a special event, dedicated with one purpose: to celebrate and embrace how wonderful being a teammate who stutters can be.
A few months ago, I approached one of my teammates, who is the leader of the Rockville, Md. chapter(Rockville is an affluent suburb located off I-270, eight miles northwest of Washington, DC) and asked him if he would be interested in coordinating with me to set up a workshop with a fellow teammate and former chapter leader of a Texas region. This teammate has accomplished a great deal in his life, such as working for a software company for 35 years and having a son who serves his country as a fighter pilot. He has traveled to different NSA chapters hosting his workshop, designed to teach how to "stutter successfully." To be honest, we were unsure if we could make this happen. It took emails, long distance calls, conference calls, interactions with other parties (such as a student chapter of NSSLHA, the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association). But on May 30th, "Successful Stuttering: It's Time To Live" took place at George Washington University, with 20+ teammates from all over the East Coast: Long Island, New York City, Baltimore, DC, Maryland, Virginia (and even a teammate who drove five and a half hours to see the speaker) gathered to learn about empowerment and motivation. We learned about a golden key and if it can unlock the doors to our personal freedom to stutter. We learned that we do have a choice: to make a day a great one, or a terrible one, and to impart that (or not) on others. But most importantly, we learned that we are unique and special.
I will never forget key moments at this presentation. At the NSA conference, we have an event called "Open Mike" where any teammate can come up and say what is on his/her mind. If they can only say their name, that's great. If they want to say how wonderful the conference is, that's encouraged. Not at one time did anyone have to feel prompted to get up. All of us did. One woman struggled so mightily and was breaking down in tears, but she continued doggedly until she said what she wanted to. That is not only awe-inspiring, but true power taken back from stuttering. Another teammate said that attending this workshop helped her with an "attitude adjustment" that she sorely needed. Another said that it was such an amazing experience to be in the presence of others who are so positive. A teammate who just graduated with her SLP degree stated how she's looking forward to working with clients and how great this event was. Not to mention of course that the student chapter of NSSLHA was co-sponsoring this event. These chapters are the future speech pathologists-they need to get involved with the NSA!
I chose to have this workshop in Washington, DC, not just because of the location (after all, it is central to so many cities and you can easily fly/drive/take a train there), but because to me, Washington DC symbolizes the chances to be who you are. To do what you want, to know that the opportunity exists and you can make a difference in your life or someone else's. I may be naive in some ways, but I do believe that people come to live (and work) in Washington because they believe in something bigger than themselves. That's the main reason why I joined the National Stuttering Association, and why I love helping other teammates become stronger and resilient when facing challenges in their life.
Before I left to take Amtrak home from Union Station, I did something that I am very proud of. I took the Metro to the Smithsonian station, and walked to the Jefferson Memorial. Climbing the top steps, and standing in front of Jefferson's statue, I saw myself transported back to the early days of this country, when a brave few dared to stand up and make a difference. At that moment, I realized that on my worst day when I stutter significantly, to me, life is beautiful. I leaned back and yelled "I love life!" as loudly as I could. Yes, I know some stared at me, and I may have drawn the wrong kind of attention. But it's true. When you stutter, life is BEAUTIFUL. Don't ever let an NSA teammate tell you it's not.
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.