First, I would like to apologize for not writing on blog frequently. I have to admit that a few things have come up, but now that I am back, I hope to contribute on a weekly basis and continue to share my thoughts about stuttering with all of you.
I still get chills when I think about Feb. 27th, at 8 p.m. The significance of this date will forever be remembered for the Oscars. As a movie buff, most fans watch the Oscars for the key awards: Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and so on. It is well worth it to "suffer" through the technical awards for cinematography and special effects. And despite the fact that we all sit glued to our televisions and marvel at all the celebrities in their gowns that cost a small fortune and their extolling the virtues of their designers, we can't help but wonder what it would be like to be there and witness Hollywood's biggest night, while simultaneously eating a pizza and watching Anne Hathaway and James Franco struggle to live up to the standards set by Bob Hope, and Billy Crystal. You can even add Hugh Jackman's name onto that list.
But as a person who stutters, tonight was going to a defining moment for those who struggle with this communication disorder, as well as SLPs and graduate students looking to enter the field. "The King's Speech" was nominated for 12 Oscars, and was pitted against "The Social Network" in most of the major categories. You often notice that when the celebrities are interviewed on the red carpet, a common cliché is "Well, it's such a thrill to be nominated." Yes, to an extent that is true. Just by the fact that this movie brought tremendous recognition to the cause of stuttering awareness was truly inspiring. Myself, and many other chapter leaders (as well as NSA members) were interviewed by many newspapers, and even radio stations. There were major publications such as The Buffalo News and The Washington Post, and one of our members who works heavily in Family Programs was interviewed on a radio broadcast in Detroit. Another chapter leader appeared on a morning news show in Syracuse. This media campaign, which was orchestrated by the NSA, was something to celebrate and admire. But little did we know that the special night was just beginning.
You see, David Seidler who wrote the original screenplay for the movie, is a person who stutters. He also happens to be our keynote speaker for the 2011 National Stuttering Association annual conference, being held in the great state of Texas. A native of London, but also a Long Islander (who grew up in Great Neck), Seidler's first screenplay was for the 1988 movie "Tucker: A Man And His Dream," starring Jeff Bridges. According to Wikipedia, Seidler located the son of Lionel Logue, the speech therapist who helped King George VI with his stammering. The son, Valentine Logue, was a retired brain surgeon who was eager to share the work of his father, but there was one caveat: He had to receive written authorization from the Queen Mother. After reaching out to her, the Queen's secretary wrote back and politely requested he cease work on the project during her lifetime. In 2005, Seidler decided to pick up where he left off.
Fast forward six years, and that brings us to the moment when Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin, two winners themselves, uttered the phrase that people who stutter have been waiting a lifetime for. "And the Oscar goes to...David Seidler, for "The King's Speech." Within 30 seconds, every member of the NSA Nation who was on Facebook immediately started to post congratulatory messages. "You are my hero," one young woman said. Another one said simply, "He did it!" But there was one more moment, and to quote Whitney Houston, it was one moment in time: "I accept this award on behalf of all the stutterers throughout the world. We have a voice, we have been heard, thanks to you, the Academy." I ran outside in a flash, while my parents had an incredibly bewildered look on their face. " I started my car, and drove up and down the street, honking in pure delirium and sheer joy. But the night was just getting started. Best Director? Check. Best Actor, Colin Firth? Yes. Best Picture? Damn Skippy!
There can be no doubt that Seidler's words have resonated with everyone who stutters. Yes, we have a voice. There is not any reason why we should not be heard. If you scroll onto my Facebook page, you'll notice that where the personal picture spot is, there's a poster of "The King's Speech." I think it's safe to say that photo is going to remain there forever.
I have a good friend and fellow person who stutters who also runs her own blog, "Make Room For The Stuttering" (you can find it at http://stutterrockstar.wordpress.com) who recently posed an interesting question about the movie, and the title says it all: "What Happens When They Forget?" After I started reading it, I realized everything she said is on point. To quote her verbatim, "We can't complacently ride the coattails of this movie." Truer words have never been said. When I saw that line, I couldn't help but think of the movie "Schindler's List." Steven Spielberg has stated time and again in interviews that this movie is the most personal to him, because many of those Holocaust survivors are dying off and their stories go with them. Despite the fact that the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC is a living testament to that atrocity, there are ignorant people who continue to deny it happened, saying it was a conspiracy or some other nonsensical statement. Well, "The King's Speech" is in a similar vein in the sense that we MUST continue to advocate and empower each other, and those future SLPs as well. We cannot allow anyone else to do that for us. Our stories need to be told. And there is proof of that-more people who stutter are doing public speaking. I absolutely LOVE that!
What "The King's Speech" did on Oscar night was fire a shot for stuttering awareness heard around the world. I like using that phrase because it rings. There are good shots, like this one. There can also be shots that tear a nation apart, like the shot that started the Civil War at Fort Sumter, near Charleston, S.C.
But this shot can be crystal clear. All Hail The King!
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.