My name is Louis Roden. I am currently the Executive Vice President of Human Resources for, the leading e-based provider of real estate related services to that industry. As well, I have held executive human resources positions for a global transportation company, as well as major retailers such as Toys R Us. I am also a stutterer.

I have looked over the sites for both teens and children... all of the comments, fears, wishes and dreams were like reading my own memories. I remember all of those fears as if they occured this very morning - I had to explain to my executive assistant why I was crying already! I do not need to recount the childhood cruelty, misunderstandings, or anger I felt - these emotions are all too familiar to those that stutter. We have all asked the question of our selves so many times... why can't I talk? I hear myself in my thoughts, so why can't I just speak like everyone else? Due to low self esteem, I put on weight and avoided all those situations that some kids that stutter avoid... I tried so hard just to make those comments stop.

However, despite that pain, it has defined what I am today. I tell people that, and it is difficult for them to understand. I am a stutterer, and that's OK. Some people need glasses... some are short or tall.. some are black, or asian, or white... and some of us stutter. I have come to control it a great deal... it has been a long journey from signing the alphabet, writing things down, or simply not talking to doing what I do now. I address large groups of people, have discourse at all levels, and do it with confidence and pride. I have "bad" days and "good" days when it comes to my speech, and even still I am the target of unintentional cruelty and remarks - mainly due to the fact that people simply don't understand stuttering. One colleague made an insensitive remark once, and later apologized, stating that he had heard I was a stutterer, but thought that I was "cured"! With him, as with others, I've never missed an opportunity to educate them on the nature of this disability.

As a boy, one thing that stuttering led me too was reading. I took comfort in the fact that I didn't stutter in my thoughts, and I could escape through my own visions and dreams that came about through literature, so I was a voracious reader. I remember my mother unpacking groceries, and I would grab every box and can and read the labels! I still went out and played with my friends (remarkably, there were those who accepted me as I was, as I am sure is the case with many kids) but adored the time with my books! I will never forget the day, in fourth grade, when the teacher was sharing the scores of the Iowa Basic Skills test with the class. She observed with some surprise, and I recall the look and exclamation of the rest of the kids in the class, that I was reading at a high school level when the other kids were not past a sixth grade level! This was a teacher that often treated me like I was mentally disabled because of my stutter. I smiled the whole way home! The school had me retake the test because they thought there was an "error" - I scored higher the second time.

I began to find that I could often substitute synonyms for words that I was having trouble with, and that new word would often emerge from my mouth trouble free! Thanks to my reading, I had a pretty good thesaurus in my head, and my speech improved a great deal. Still, it was a part of me. In junior high, I got the lead in the school play. I soon found, despite my optimism, that I just couldn't do it. I faked an illness for a week so I didn't have to go to rehersal. It was a very painful time - I wanted to show everyone I could do it. Finally, I spoke to our drama coach (Sally Krava was her name - she was wonderful) and we gave the role to another kid and I got to be stage manager! The next year, after being the student director, the kids voted me Outstanding Junior Player.

Since then, I have been through college, through the military, and a variety of professional roles to where I am now. I am gregarious, positive, and have built many relationships both inside and outside of my career - when I think of the recluse that I was, and the fact that those life experiences have led me to where I am now, it makes me realize how much I want to give back.

Any time I see a kid, or young adult, with any disability, trying to achieve and do the best that they can, I share in their pride, smile with their smile, and laugh with their laugh. I enjoy helping people understand, through my job and outside of it, that people are not disabled - only differently abled - and we all bring special value and our own perspectives. Stand tall... be proud... trust your intellect... and don't let ignorance and cruelty win over your own self-worth and desire... hard words to live by, but once mastered, open so very many doors.

added with permission July 7, 2000