Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I made a memory of positive hope in the District of Columbia!!!

Good evening all my teammates,

I have to start off this blog entry by letting everyone know that even in the most trying of days and times, like the ones we face today, it is a given that if you keep focusing on the task at hand and never waving the white flag of surrender, eventually you will hit milestones. Many times these milestones are not often marked by the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or anything tangible. But they are marked the belief that anything is possible, even when we don't think it is.

On Thursday, Nov. 12, I began my travels from Long Island down to Washington, DC. Now most hear that and they are like, "Oh wow, nothing special. What's the big deal about the Turnpike and the Beltway?" Well, most times, there isn't, after all, those roads have been traveled many times before. But I was en route to the nation's capital for a very special and unique event. For the past two years, I have worked part-time while I seek full-time employment. These are perilous times we live in regarding today's economy, after all, safety nets (if they still exist) are hanging on by a thread. I found out about a special job fair being sponsored by a Long Island-based company called Equal Opportunity Publications, and they were hosting a job fair designed for candidates with disabilities. It was held at the Reagan Trade Building in downtown Washington, with many federal agencies and private employers looking to hire. I knew it was something I had to go to.

As I was driving down there and passing the Philadelphia skyline on I-95, I began to wonder a few things. Would I be the only who stutters there? How will I be perceived by other candidates as well as employers? Am I acknowledging I have a disability or not? So many questions and different ways to answer, so I want to share my thoughts on each perspective. Waiting on line to enter the job fair, I saw many different candidates facing challenges and being proud to represent themselves to the fullest: whether it was blindness, deafness, or paralysis. Stuttering is gaining so much momentum in the eyes of the world and I am proud to be a teammate who can show others the impact it has, but more importantly, what it can do for you if you have a positive attitude. As soon as I open my mouth, someone will know I stutter. And so what if they do? I was honored to be in the company of those candidates looking for work.

As to whether I feel I have a disability, I would say no, but there is a caveat. I suppose in the eyes of the law, I might be perceived as having one. I have worked with (and still am) working with vocational counselors and there are special considerations I can be given for employment with state and federal government. I want to be judged on my character and what I can do, even though most times it seems like we are judged based on our past and track record. I am taking advantage of an opportunity that was furnished to me, and I'd be foolish not to accept it. Sometimes it does frustrate me to deal with employers because HR people may seem disinterested or not care, especially if the job requires some level of oral proficiency. All jobs do. But do you know how I respond? I think this one sentence says it all: You may think I have a disability, but in reality, it's my greatest asset." How true it is!!!!

With every employer I met, I showcased the National Stuttering Association proudly. Many employers were impressed by my intense desire and loyalty to this incredible organization. In fact, one recruiter I met with had a cousin who stutters, and I told him all about the NSA Nation and how tremendous they are, and provided him with the contact information to get in touch. I also met a recruiter from NASA who was interested in possibly discussing a media position...no a ride on the shuttle will not be offered LOL. Great contacts were made, and resumes/business cards exchanged.

We as teammates but more importantly human beings know when we've experienced something great and how it feels. As a teammate who stutters, we tend to focus on more the negatives than the positive. I have faced and will continue to face many challenges with my speech, but I also know with the NSA Nation, I will remain focused on what needs to be done and know that I will never surrender to stuttering. When you experience those highs, they last much longer and taste ever so sweeter.

Here's to more of those moments taking place...and as always, here's to doing what is necessary to ensure the NSA Nation keeps going.

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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