Monday, 28 February 2011

The Oscars do not

usually interest me in the slightest. I am not actually a great film fan. We do not go often. I do enjoy the occasional one but I am not one of those people who "must see" the latest film. I doubt I will see "The Social Network", "Inception" or "The Black Swan" but I did see "The King's Speech". I am pleased it did as well as it did. It deserved those Oscars - and not just because the film was good and the acting was good.

It deserved it because it did something more. It helped to bring stuttering to people's attention. I am fortunate. I do not stutter. There are many people out there who do. I know people who do stutter. It is emotionally and physically distressing for those who do - and for those around them.

I know many, many other people with severe speech defects, some so severe that they are unintelligible. I also know other people who are unable to speak at all. The intellectual ability of all these people ranges from minimal to highly intelligent. Every single one of them has some capacity to communicate. One is a mathematician, another runs a business that employs more than forty people, yet another ran the accounts department in a firm that employed more than a thousand people. One, once considered to be profoundly intellectually retarded, can read two languages and another, who does have limited intelligence, has a wonderful and wicked sense of humour.

It can take a little extra time and effort to listen to someone who has a severe speech defect, or who lacks any speech. It requires a little patience, the ability to listen a little more carefully and to ask the right sort of questions at the right times. It requires the self-discipline to bite your own tongue and not take over or make assumptions about what the other person wants to say.
It is not easy.

Most of all it is not easy for the person with the speech defect. I can remember one speech pathologist saying to me "I am always surprised at how hard they try to communicate."
It does not surprise me at all. The capacity to communicate is the thing which makes us human; it is perhaps the most important thing of all.

The ability to speak in public is a magnificent gift. There are people who are natural orators, who can move entire nations into action with simple messages delivered in a dramatic style. They often end up many times on the pages of books of quotations. If they combine words with action they can do great good - or great evil.

Churchill had an enviable ability to use the English language. He used it well and often, especially during the war - some would possibly say too often. He had a country to run.

The King had an ability to use the English language too. He used it well and perhaps even more wisely. It cost him far more effort but he had a country to keep and a Commonwealth to care for.

So, for once, I will salute the Oscars - but possibly not in the way those who award them will have thought about.

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