Wednesday, March 23, 2011

To comment or not to comment...that is the ultimate question

Good evening everyone,

We've all had moments when we have desperately wanted to turn back the hands of time. For instance, when we've hurt someone or done something that has caused irreparable harm to others. In that category we can also include opening of the mouth and saying something that is inappropriate. Those who read my blog on a regular basis know how passionate I am about all things stuttering. But for me, this particular entry is a very personal one.

This past Saturday I happened to be taking a nap while listening to the sounds of one of our all-news stations, 1010WINS (, and while I usually keep it on for the purpose of knowing what time it is as well as swearing by their live Accuweather forecasts, I was jarred from my sleep by a comment that incensed me.

The former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, was apparently quoted as saying that when it come to President Barack Obama's policies on Libya, he was a "stuttering weakling." Now I want to make one thing emphatically clear. My blog has never been about politics or whatever ideologies people believe in. But any time a comment is made about stuttering, I will be the first to respond. And boy, did I have a lot to say on this.

To be clear, I was faced with some conflicting emotions on this, whether I should comment on this or not. After all, this isn't the first time someone has said something derogatory about a rival or a competitor. And probably after three weeks, we'll all forget he even mentioned this. But I know as a person who stutters, there could be no way in good conscience I could let this go. I am very proud to be an advocate who stutters, and whenever support is needed for anything stuttering, I am often the first one who will happily volunteer-not because I have to, but because I want to. We all make our mark on this world in different ways-some lecture. Some paint and contribute timeless pieces to museums. Others write about the world and how it can be changed. Well, my way of making this world better is to educate and empower people who stutter. That is my mission, and my work is never done.

These days, it seems like there is a strong trend to hold people accountable for what they say. Sure, being a politician can get ugly. We have watched the commercials ("Candidate A raised taxes! Candidate B fathered a child out of wedlock!") as mud is thrown at each other. It seems like any sense of civility is fake, even at debates ("I want to say how honored I am to be here with my worthy adversary...). But corporations and other businesses are very quick to distance themselves from incendiary comments. I can remember a few years ago when Jeremy Shockey, the former tight end for the New York Giants, made a comment about the fans at a home game against Miami Dolphins, because they left early. Apparently he didn't realize that the fans left early because Yom Kippur was beginning at sundown, and very quickly the Giants had to issue a press release apologizing for his comments. According to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, John Mara, who was the vice-president of the team, acknowledged that "Shockey is not going to be close to being aware of that." And I'm sure he was chastised about it privately. While it is easy to admire the ex-mayor for his leadership during America's darkest hour when the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked, I can't help but feel he should have known better than to make a comment like that. Consider the fact that New York City is the most diverse place on the planet, you'd think he would be more accommodating. After all, this is a city where an Orthodox Jew and Muslim can ride side by side by the subway, or even be friends, and no one would think twice about it.

I did write a letter to him and I addressed my feelings in a diplomatic manner. As to whether I will get any response from him, that remains to be seen. But let me ask you. If we don't stand up for ourselves as people who stutter, then who will? People who stutter are not weak. On the contrary, they are some of the most strongest people I know. My fellow members of the National Stuttering Association are driven and they will never let their speech stand in the way. They are my strength everlasting.

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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