Power of the Voice
Last night a new winner of America’s Got Talent was announced. The television franchise can be seen in around the world. First developed by Simon Cowell for Great Britain and shown as a pilot, the program being aired in a complete format was delayed and the first full show of the franchise was “America’s Got Talent” in 2006. There are now fifty-eight versions airing in fifty-eight countries. While vocal talent is not the only talent allowed, more vocalists have won the competition than any other talent category and last night was no exception.
“The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs, no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another, even the lowliest creature; but to do so is to renounce our manhood and shoulder a guilt which nothing justifies.” By far the most expedient way to do this is with our voices.
During this series of making the ordinary extraordinary, we are talking about effecting positive change. You are someone who can make a difference and no, it will not always be easy or popular. At the beginning of this year I wrote about how I left a meeting because a song that was going to be sung contained a derogatory term, a word of discrimination that I felt I could support. My leaving attracted no attention but it made a statement. I did not want to leave. It was a great meeting with really great people but…I could not contribute to the discrimination of a group of people either. I took a stand.
That’s the most important thing a human being does. They take a stand for their cause. They give a voice to their cause. We often overlook the power of speech. Ask someone who has difficulty with speaking and you will suddenly realize how important it is. For the six million to ten million in the United States alone with speech impediments, life is not easy. They are sixty-one percent more likely to be bullied and eighty-two percent more likely to be unemployed, despite their talents, intellect, and skills.
This coming October will be the fifth anniversary of the death of a charming seventeen-year-old young man. Attractive with a great personality, it seemed like his future was bright with potential. For James, reality was much different that the outward appearances. He was bullied and lived in fear of being asked questions by his teachers, questions that would require an oral response aloud in class. His online persona was delightful but his in-person persona was shy and reticent. Teased and bullied whenever he spoke, James preferred to let his computer do his talking. You see, James was a stutterer. The world saw only that one simple characteristic and heard only the hesitated speech, not the beautiful thoughts. On a fall day in Virginia, James ended the abuse and took his own life. Peer pressure would not allow James to be himself and in the end, it caused him to take his own life.
The winner of America’s Got Talent 2016 sang for her audition a song about being different. It was a song she wrote herself and broke a few so-called rules of music theory but it was a heart-felt song and struck a chord with many in the viewing audience. The brief song told of wondering who we are and the pressure to be just like everyone else. It ended with the glory of being unique and an individual.
We should not insist that only those who talk have perfect speech any more than we should only listen to songs that follow some arbitrary group of rules for musical composition. If we did, then we would be listening to the Gregorian chants of the early 12300’s and the Beatles who never have been given a recording contract or concert venue. There would never have been the Big Band era of music followed by rock and roll. Michael Jackson and Prince would have never become household names.
None of us are perfect but we can use our talents and our imperfections. We all have an obligation to our planet and neighbors to be the best representation of ourselves we can be. For some, that might mean adopting healthier habits; for others, stop being afraid of people who seem different. Last night, for a twelve-year-old girl named Grace Vanderwall who played the ukulele it meant standing in front of an audience and singing.
We all have our skills and our “not so good at that” areas. Then use your voice to make the world a better place. Last night it was wonderful to be Grace Vanderwall but in truth, every day is a great day to be her. She is authentic and true to herself. We all need to use the power of our own voice and be ourselves. We will all know the amazing grace we offer the world and be winners when we use the power of our voices.