Last night celebrities and supporters got together to celebrate the important work of Our Time, an organization that uses the arts to improve the confidence and communication skills of children who stutter.
Who was in attendance? Carly Simon, David Seidler, Renee Zellweger, John Oliver among others.
I was lucky enough to be there to hear the stories of the children whose lives have been changed by the organization. David Seidler, academy award winning writer of The King’s Speech, was the honoree of the evening, and spoke about his own struggles as a youth. He too is a stutterer.
Seidler said to the audience as he recounted stories from his childhood, “Do you realize it is the only handicap today it is still permissible to make fun of?”
Seidler also shared letters he received from the parents of children who stutter. One child had such a severe stutter that the only person who could understand him was his brother. His family took him to see The King’s Speech and while they were leaving, the father heard his son sort of chattering to himself. When he walked up next to the child, he realized, his son was singing his words, just like the king did in the film.
Another letter told the story of a boy, a talented writer who always gave his stories to a friend to read for him during class since his stutter would make reading difficult. However, after seeing The King’s Speech, the boy put his fingers in his ears so he couldn’t hear himself, and then went on to read his story perfectly, all by himself. Another trick learned from watching the film.
Seidler said about the letters, “If that’s the only thing I’ve done in my life, it’s a life worth living.”
Other famous stutterers got in touch with Seidler after The King’s Speech came out, including Vice President Joe Biden. However, Seidler was a little skeptical when the Vice President called so instead of saying something like, “Hello Vice President,” Seidler said, “Who the f*^% is this?”
Biden told Seidler how he felt guilty when he overcame his stammer and went into politics because he went into the closet. He was worried that the misconception that people who stammer are of a lesser intellect would hurt his political career.
Seidler ended his speech noting how, “Stuttering is, in a very strange way, a gift.” He said it taught him, “patience, humility” and that he needed to honor himself and realize that he is brave. Bravery is certainly a quality you see when you hear the kids of Our Time tell their stories. Many children who stutter stop speaking up in class, are anxious when answering the telephone and are made fun of for their stammer. The kids at Our Time put all of that aside and speak in front of hundreds of people at the gala. Bravery indeed.
Carly Simon, another famous stutterer, performed with her son and with the kids of Our Time. John Oliver, Daily Show correspondent and star on Community, caused the audience to roar with laughter as he performed a skit with one of the children in the Our Time program.
Each year at the gala, Our Time honors a famous stutterer for being a positive role model. But even more exciting than that is hearing the children of Our Time speak freely in a safe space, where they have the time to say their words without interruption and have their voice be heard.
Between the live auction and live donations, Our Time raised over two hundred thousand dollars for their programs. We’re sure it will be put to good use helping children.