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 you...you 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.