Twin Speakers

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Before comedy and playwriting I was a speech teacher. As my own child of four stumbles her way into language and confidence, I was thinking again about two students of mine who overcame what seemed at first like an insurmountable barrier, and turned it into a memorable win rather than a defeat. As a speech teacher I naturally saw hundreds, thousands of speeches — but one story stands taller than the rest: the day two identical twins walked into my summer speech class. Not because of their shared appearance, but because of the startling and debilitating stutter they both shared.

This impediment was so stifling that it would take minutes of choking silence for either one of them to complete one simple thought. But what started as a unique teaching challenge would wind up teaching *me* something about finding different ways to overcome challenges.

two heads
two heads

Because eventually, the twins shared an even more startling but useful fact: If they could speak together, as a team, their stutter would practically disappear. And sure enough, it worked: When they went up to the front of the room together, a natural partnership kicked in. They finished each other's sentences, supporting and reinforcing each other's ideas, one instinctively filling in when the other fell silent. The stutter didn't go away completely, but it was dramatically improved. It was pure, graceful teamwork and a beautiful thing to watch. I asked the other students if they were okay with the twins being allowed to work as a team, and nobody minded — we could all see that it was meant to be. Their fascinating duo dynamic made their speeches a thousand times more interesting and a thousand times more memorable even if they were a thousand times more flawed.

Some people are born to be solo acts; others are natural partners and collaborators. Not everybody shines under the same circumstances, but everybody shines — despite and sometimes because of their flaws. You just have to find the approach that lets each diamond in the rough display its best facets.

And my other key takeaway is this: The most powerful thing you can do in speaking is to accept your greatest flaw and incorporate it into what you're doing. Someday I look forward to telling my daughter this story.

EducationKathryn Lake