As most of you know, to succeed in a political career you must be able to verbally communicate fast and clearly. There is a question that I have been wondering, and I hope that this article will help answer my query.
Why is it that we do not see very many people with speech disabilities out in the political or business world? Yes, many people with speech disabilities are very intelligent, yet because of the way they have been treated by many people in the disability and non-disability community, it is hard to continue to prove themselves as capable and intelligent people. Why do I say this? Unfortunately, having a disability for many also accompanies the idea that a person with a disability has entitlement. I think that is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Many people with disabilities that I have talked with feel that the government owes them because of what they have to deal with everyday. I think that this is a sad state—to see people live with this belief. Yes, living with a speech disability may put up more barriers on your life—if you let it.
You need to take chances in life and get out in the world and say, “I have abilities that do work.”
Yes, living with a speech impediment is not fun. People may not want to give you the time of day, simply because they are embarrassed that they cannot understand you. Yet, this should not prevent people with any kind of disability from getting involved in political work. People should not just expect a person to be given things from the government without putting in some kind of work or effort. This work might mean being a volunteer on a campaign or better yet, they can run for political seat.
During the past two years I have been very active in a number of political campaigns, both local and statewide. When was the last time you met a political candidate with a speech impediment or a candidate who has a committee chair with a speech impediment? I personally have never met a person running for any position, local or state, who had a speech impediment or a committee chair with a speech impediment, besides me. I know of other people with disabilities who have run for office and are currently serving the State of Minnesota in one capacity or another. But these people are vision impaired or blind, thus they are able to communicate their thoughts and ideas and answer any questions in a timely manner.
Because the political arena involves having to communicate thoughts and ideas and answer questions without any hesitation, it’s highly unlikely you’ll see a person with a speech impediment holding an elected high profile position. Until more people with speech impediments are willing to take chances to run for a political seat, whether it is city or state, I do not think we will be seen as equal even though we have the mental ability to think clearly. Our speech disability interferes at times in opening up opportunities socially, business and politically.
For those of you who are offended by this statement, it is not done to hurt anyone or any group of people, but it is a fact. I have had to come to terms with this fact because of a political opportunity that came my way. I was not willing to just sit back and not get involved.
During this last year, there were many local city council races and in St. Louis Park there was an open seat, which I decided to take the opportunity and run for. Because there were three candidates running for the open seat, there had to be a primary. I made it through the primary, which was a nice surprise. After the primary, it was eight weeks until the election. There was a lot of work involved with the campaign. Many of the voters I reached were open to asking me to repeat what I said if they were not able to understand. There were also many people who were uncomfortable with my speech and some would not even acknowledge my presence, this is why I say you won’t find a person with a speech impediment in a high profile office, even though developmentally they may be as sharp as a tack.