Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Good evening everyone,

I have to begin this entry of the blog by saying that I believe. I believe in my teammates at the National Stuttering Association more than anything else. I believe that the world, despite everything that goes on it, is still a welcoming place where all opinions are accepted and values for what they are. I don't care if anyone thinks I am naive when I say that, and I hope when you read this you'll understand why. Most importantly of all, I believe we all have the power to make a difference, and we all have the two most important qualities needed to do so: "Passion" and "Drive."

These two qualities, which are not in short supply anymore, were evident at a special event that I was truly honored to be a part of. Last night, my NSA co-chapter leader was honored as a member of the Long Island community making a difference. For those of you who are unaware, the Long Island Press (http://www.longislandpress.com) is a major media outlet in the world of alternative publications. Every week, the "Fortune 52" column (named after the associate publisher of the newspaper) profiles a woman who is truly creating a significant contribution to our region. I, along with several others, nominated Lori to be profiled. I was delighted to receive a call from the associate publisher, who met with her and was blown away by her accomplishments. There were so many honorees, from a woman who is the head of an organization for head injuries, to a pastor of a church that works to help youth in her community become more involved with appreciation for the arts. The event was held at the Tilles Center, on the campus of Long Island University, my alma mater.

My co-chapter leader was the first one recognized, and she was very humble when she was interviewed. Like many NSA teammates, she has faced many professional challenges. An original accountant, she struggled with her speech and eventually decided to pursue her Master's degree as an SLP practitioner. One school actually told her she'd never make it because of her speech. Not only does she have her own practice, and she's running (along with another of my teammates) the TWST (Teens Who Stutter) chapter, she lectures at schools. But that's just only a measure of the true impact she has.

I never felt in my life that I wanted to volunteer for anything...after all, I used to subscribe to the theory that "You just can't fight City Hall." But it was my co-chapter leader, along two other teammates, who challenged me to be a chapter leader. They saw the fire and desire in my eyes. It's because of them that I went from just "speaking" to "speaking with passion." There IS a difference between communicating and speaking. But now I know that we all have the power to make a difference. I firmly believe that I've been given a special gift, to help my teammates who stutter in any way possible. I absolutely love my meetings the third Thursday of the month when we all come together.

The biggest thrill, though, was yet to come. Two women approached Lori, one of which had a 14-year old son who stutters. She began to get so emotional talking about it, and just to sit back and watch her speak to the mother was truly inspirational. I was there merely as a supporter, for this was her night to shine. I always end my blog with "Stand up and be counted, make your voice heard." I guarantee you, her voice was heard loud and clear that night, and she received a tremendous amount of congratulatory accolades.

Before I left, though, I had the pleasure to chat with the publisher of The Long Island Press, who is very civically active and has had active interests not just in radio, but print media and making the Island a better place to live. I was discussing with him how I got started in journalism, and how I grew disillusioned that everything now is about money when it comes to media, and how writing used to be about calling out others for their wrongdoings. I doubt I will ever go back to journalism again, but to be honest, maybe my writing skills haven't faded. Especially with this blog, I never run out of things to say. And if you're an NSA teammate, you will never run out of things to say.

It's nights like these that make me celebrate the greatest power anyone can have: To stand in front of the mirror, or anywhere, and say: "I WILL make a difference today."

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person that stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

1 comment:

Lori Melnitsky said...

I was honored to receive this award. I was a little nervous when I first heard that I would be interviewed. After all, the whole world would really hear my story. It was wonderful and having you there made it more meaningful. I looked at you when they talked how hard it was for me growing up stuttering. There were only two people in that room who really knew how difficult it was, you and my father.
I remember meeting you in Atlanta. During the microphone segment, you sat by yourself (which is hard to believe since you are so social and outgoing)and I saw a person fighting to get out. I knew the NSA needed a chapter leader like you and am so glad you accepted this leadership role. You write very well and hope you keep this blog going. I am honored to be your teammate and co-chapter leader. Thank you for nominating me and acknowledging all that I have strived to overcome. It has not been easy, but I love being a speech pathologist and am thankful for the NSA and the Stuttering Foundation of America. Lori