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Saturday, February 27, 2016

THE VOICE OF A POET

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THE REAL DEAL

Imagine if you will, you are abandoned at the tender age of five to an institution, cerebral palsy commands your body, you are unable to speak, walk or care for yourself. If that is not enough, you are black.

His name is Bob, he is an American hero, one borne of abuse, abandonment and neglect, who would turn pity into a mighty swift sword of teaching courage, strength and a brave heart, all from his wheel chair. Powerless to protect himself, he depends on others for his care. Since he was five, he has never seen his family since they left him at the institute.

His full name is Bob Lee Smith, and yes, that IS his real name. When I first saw him, he was at a table at breakfast with his mom and an advocate. He was to be the guest speaker at a meeting for Executive Directors and presidents of some 49 chapters in New York State under the NYSARC organization that advocates for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Bob is a self advocate, Bob knows what he is saying and says it so well, he can transform your heart from cold to hot in seconds.

At the age of 22, Bob went into the Westchester ARC and began to receive love and attention along with the commitment to bring meaning to his life. A speech therapist discovered that Bob could read, and was in fact composing his own poetry!

A manual communication board was designed for Bob who using his thumb would type out the letters, which in turn were transcribed, producing emotional revelations that speak to the core of his life, his chains and how he breaks them, poetry simple and pure, no abstractions to cloud the mind, but do clarify a daily struggle.

Like I said, Bob is a teacher, and with an electronic synthesizer, he is able to convert text into speech, allowing one to hear what he has to say. He had a book published called: “Reflections of My Life” about his strengths and passions, aimed at students and audiences of people with disabilities, he is a hero to them, he is one of mine.


WHAT IS STRENGTH?

Am I strong if I can lift
A car in one hand,
But cannot wipe a tear
from a friend’s eye?

Does my strength
begin with muscle,
Or does it start
With my soul?

Only when I begin
To overcome my
Weakness instead
Of other people,
Will I truly be strong.

- Bob Smith

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