Monday, December 21, 2009

I am proud that I stutter!

Good afternoon everyone,

I've often heard the term "pride" mentioned as a big factor in why some people do the things they do. For example, a person who is struggling with addictive impulses may refuse to admit they have a problem and want to get help, because they are too proud. Or sometimes we may not want to accept a lower-paying job, because we may feel "We're better than that." However, in some cases, it's important to have pride in moderation, because it tells a lot about the type of character you have.

Yesterday, in the wake of the Blizzard of 2009, I was watching the NFL on FOX, and being that I live in the metropolitan New York area, the local FOX affiliate, which was WNYW/5, was showing the New York Jets hosting the Atlanta Falcons. In a game that meant nothing to the Falcons because they had already been eliminated from playoff contention, the Falcons eked out a win, 10-7, on a last second touchdown. And while the home crowd was groaning, the play-by-play team of Dick Stockton and Charles Davis were talking about how the Falcons would be missing the playoffs, there was a very important goal they were shooting for. In their existence as an NFL franchise, the Falcons have never had back-to-back winning seasons, and that was a goal that would be of great importance. After the game, sideline reporter interviewed Tony Gonzalez, a future Hall of Famer in his own right, and he said (paraphrasing) that "We have a great deal of pride, and we're professionals."

I repeatedly thought about that comment-in a situation like this, it's very easy to fold up the tent and say "We're done. See you all next year, and we'll try again then." But you need to have pride in what you do and who you are, and let others know that. I am proud that I stutter and I feel fortunate that I have a special gift that I can share with others in this world. For those who understand me and the NSA Nation and the special things we bring to this life, if you think your stuttering is a big deal, it will be. When you look down when you speak to others, they'll start to look down too and feel embarrassed. One of the most important lessons that I learned from an NSA conference (among many) is to give a firm handshake and look the other person in the eye when you speak. That exudes confidence and power and the value reaches so far.

We're all works in progress when it comes to accepting who we are. We are our own worst enemies, because no one sees our flaws the way that we do. The NSA Nation allows us to represent ourselves to the fullest extent possible.

As I was watching the end of the game, I saw Arthur Blank, the owner of the team, on the sidelines. At our conference in Atlanta, he was a keynote speaker. Not only does he own the Falcons, but he co-owned The Home Depot and is a millionaire many times over, and is very philanthropic in the Atlanta community. I couldn't help but think back to a quote he made during his speech when he said "There is no finish line." It was on a T-shirt that he wears when he runs marathons. There is always work to be done in our lives, and improving ourselves as human beings and as people who stutter. There are times we will want to stop, and raise the white flag of surrender. But we can't. Because we have pride in the work we do, and will continue to do to spread stuttering awareness everywhere.

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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