Good evening all my teammates,
Although I am 31, in some ways I feel like my life has already started over and I am unlearning everything that I learned in college. They say college prepares you for the real world..man, is that an understatement of the highest kind. Our lives are shaped by experience and the teammates who leave their impressions on us by how they are, how they live, and how they give of themselves. When I was studying at Nassau Community College, I happened to take an introductory philosophy course, which to me wasn't anything more than some requisite that had to be filled. Of course, the professor didn't really make the class entertaining, but rather it was one student who asked the question about the meaning of life. This might sound strange, but it took me almost a decade and a little longer to find out just what the meaning of life is...and of all things, it came out of the pages of The Sporting News. It was taken from an interview with Larry Fitzgerald, the superstar wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, as he was speaking about his mother, who had taken great pride in being a teacher who still receives letter from her students who have grown up to be productive members of society. Here's the simple lesson: "Life is really about making changes and helping people better themselves."
As much as it bothers me to acknowledge this, sometimes I fear that we live in the world of "ME." The world of me has no place for others, or no place for giving unless something is rewarded. The world of me has permeated our society, and it can be seen on the news by hearing stories about those who have spent lavishly at the expense of others. The world of me enters one's world when you begin to develop a "I never cared about anyone attitude, so it's me against the world." That attitude may work in high school, and maybe your first years of college. But once you enter the real world, I guarantee you if you keep on doing that, the world of me will force you to succumb to everything you don't want in life, and before you realize it, you won't recognize who you are.
I face a unique set of challenges as a teammate who stutters. Before I found the National Stuttering Association, to whom I owe everything, I had often questioned why it had been me who stuttered, and why not someone else. I had longed, for example, to wish I was deaf in addition to having a stutter so that I would not have to hear what was said about me. The world today is a lot more cruel than it's ever been. I've met some of the most amazing teammates at my NSA conference who are in high school and they stand firm in their convictions. They are the first ones who will challenge others when teasing about their stuttering is involved. They are truly wise beyond their years....and it's our job as teammates to continue to mentor them.
But in the end, the choice is ours. What do you think is the meaning of life? I know what mine is: To use my power to break the stranglehold of stuttering and give support and guidance to others. I can promise you this: Wherever stuttering is and it presence threatens my teammates, I will be there.
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.