Sunday, June 7, 2009

What type of revolution will you start?

Good evening everyone,

As I was surfing the Internet this past week, I found out that one the significant world-turning events celebrated its twenteith anniversary. I'll never forget the photo of one man standing in front of four tanks representing the People's Liberation Army in Tianamen Square, defying the will of what symbolism those tanks represented. In today's world, there have been many moments that have forever altered the landscape of the society we live in: The Berlin Wall coming down. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy. More recently, the horrifying attacks of September 11, 2001.

As I was reading the latest edition of The Hockey News, I couldn't help but pay keen attention to an article called "Defection," which profiled the story of Alexander (The Great) Mogilny, who became the first Russian professional hockey player to defect to the National Hockey League. In this piece, the writer talks about how whether he intended to or not, Mogilny launched a revolution for other players from Russia to come to the United States to play, and facing strict punishment (and being targeted for turning traitor to their country) for doing so. Mogilny did not want to relive this event, but when asked why he did it, he said bluntly and poignantly "I did it for freedom. If the bird can fly and the fish can swim, you have to be able to move around the world and be free and not watched constantly. If a human being doesn't have freedom, that's not life. It's like living in a cage. To me, you might as well be dead."

Think about the last two lines of that statement. For my teammates who stutter, at one time, we were all living in self-imposed cages. Trapped by our vocal spasms. Forced to live in isolation because we had no other choice but to do so. Stuttering can be mild to severe, we all know this. Regardless of what type of diagnosis you might be given when it comes to your speech, a parent hearing the words "Your child stutters" could interpret that as a death sentence. Imagine, going through life and struggling to say what you want. Even if it's ordering a sandwich at the local restaurant. We live that every day. Hell, I just did today, and it was ordering linguini bolognese at the local pizzeria.

But just like with the revolution Mogilny launched, you too can start your own revolution within yourself. Maybe today you'll talk to a teammate about your speech and the challenges you faced today. Maybe you'll walk up to a person on the street, smile and say "Hello!"-and who cares if it comes out "h-h-h-hello." You can fire a thousand salvos that will provide you with amazing self-confidence. It may make you scared. But imagine this: one person sacrificed their citizenship, even never again seeing their wife and daughter. You will reap so many rewards by doing so. You may very well find that your life, as a teammate, begins now.

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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