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The King’s Speech

Monday, October 17, 2011 - 00:00 -- BY CAROLINE MUTOKO

I’m
sure the title of my column looks familiar, after all the movie by
that name picked up four Oscars out of 12 nominations and got rave
reviews everywhere from TIME to Newsweek to People. However bear with
me for a moment because I’m not talking about the movie, nor am I
referring to King George VI, I’m referring to a king who lives and
walks amongst us. That man is John Ngumi.

 

For
those who have encountered John Ngumi, you probably agree with me
entirely and for those of you who don’t know him, I won’t go into
you his professional credentials (there isn’t enough room on this
page), they are legion - Google him. What I will however do, is share
with you an e-mail Mr. Ngumi sent me on June 4 2011.

Caroline 

I
have a personal request.

I have stammered (or stuttered, as
the Americans put it) all my life. It is something I have managed to
disguise well, but for me speaking remains an ordeal, whether
one-on-one or to an audience. I have managed to live with
stammering,but I know so many people, talented, brilliant, capable,
who are held back from fulfilling their potential by the sheer
inability to perform one of the actions that define us as human
beings: speaking. I also know the sheer terror that this inability
induces, the social ostracism, the humiliation of not being able to
do what a child can do, and - for children - the daily cruelty that
only children can inflict, and endure.

"The King's
Speech" addresses stuttering squarely, and offers hope to the
stammering helpless that a King can also stammer, and can have the
courage to face and tackle this affliction. It is not speech therapy,
but it really helps. It has helped me. So I have bought five of these
DVDs for you to give away. I leave it entirely to your discretion how
you give them away, and who to: individuals, schools, whatever. And
you are free to mention my name; maybe some person will be inspired
to know I also have this problem. I arrive back this afternoon, let
me know when you'd like to have these delivered:
tomorrow,
Monday,
wherever.

Regards

 

I
was at home getting ready to go out and I remember turning to a
friend who knows and admires John greatly and said to him “John is
trying to make me cry” as showed him the e-mail. He nodded and
smiled and said “how very like John”. Indeed. This
week, I will not only honour that request, I hope to do John Ngumi
proud. I also hope to invite John Ngumi to the Big Breakfast to share
his story. Oh Yes!

For
Vice
President Joe Biden
,
who knows a thing or two about public speaking, the film felt very
personal for him as it did for John Ngumi. Oh, you read that right –
Vice President Joe Biden stammered. In
the wake of the movie's success, Biden opened up about his childhood
struggle. He discussed childhood taunting and revealed the tireless
support of his mother, who refused to let stuttering define her son.

The men and women who have stood tall and refused to let this
speech impediment stand in the way of their goals and success are
many, we just don’t know them and my mission this week is to not
only celebrate them, but in so doing, unshackle those who may have
let their stammer hold them back. Moreover, I would like to invite
you and your loved ones to the International Stammering Awareness Day
to be held this Saturday (22
nd
October 2011) at The Mavuno Church in South C.
For
those of you who have loved ones who struggle with this speech
impediment, please show them this list of just afew of the great
people world-wide and through history who have refused to let this
impediment stand in their way:   

 

Actors, actresses, singers and sportsmen include:

James Earl Jones —well-known for his voice as Darth Vader in Star Wars and as the voice of CNN.

Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts — These award-winning actresses stammered as children.

Bruce Willis — Has starred in more than 60 movies – he stammered way into his teens as did Samuel L. Jackson

Marilyn Monroe — yes her!

Marc Anthony — Pop singer and ex-husband of Jennifer Lopez.

Tiger Woods — One of the most successful golfers of all time stammered into his early teens as well. Woods was a child prodigy who began to play golf at 2 years old.

Government leaders and public officials who stammered through life include:

Vice President Joseph Biden — He began his long political career when he was first elected to the Senate in 1973 at the age of 30, making him the sixth-youngest senator in U.S. history.

Winston Churchill — He served as the British prime minister from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 until 1955. A noted statesman and orator, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army and an author. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 for historical writing.

Business leaders who overcame their stammer to shape and stand tall in the business arena include:

Walter Wriston — As chairman of Citibank/Citicorp from 1967-1984, Wriston was regarded as one of the most influential commercial bankers.

Jack Welch — During his tenure as chairman of General Electric, he increased the market capitalization of GE by more than $400 billion. He served as GE's chairman from 1981 through 2001. Welch gained a reputation of having a solid, unique business leadership style.

In years to come, when we look back to the day and time we chose to get to grips with the facts on stammering and do away with the prejudices around it, I know without a doubt we will remember the name of John Ngumi.