December 20, 2011 Columns

From the President: Aspire to Inspire

"If all my possessions were taken from me with but one exception, I would choose to keep the power of communication, for by it, I would soon regain all the rest!"

—Daniel Webster


For me, the theme of the 2011 ASHA Convention, "Beacons of Inspiration: Innovation to Action," is not simply a Convention theme. It conveys how I feel about our professions and how we serve all of our many constituents. A beacon is someone who sends a signal to others, so a beacon of inspiration is someone who, by his or her actions, inspires others. Even after more than 40 years in this wonderful field, it is our ability to inspire that keeps me pumped about the work we do every day.

I don't think a week goes by that I don't read about or witness an example of one of our members being an inspiration to those we serve. Let me highlight just a few of these particularly inspiring stories of innovation that illustrate ASHA's vision of making communication accessible and achievable for all.

I'll begin with Dr. Lilly Cheng. Though her accomplishments as a teacher and researcher are significant, Lilly inspires me with her tremendous capacity to expand her responsibilities and contribute more and more to our field and our planet. Just to list a few examples: She is a professor and director of the Chinese Studies Institute at San Diego State University. She is the past chair of ASHA's Multicultural Issues Board. She served as associate dean of the College of Health and Human Services. She is also an ASHA Fellow and received the 1997 ASHA award for special contributions to multicultural affairs. She has lectured all over the world. People like Lilly Cheng inspire us with their enormous capacity to involve so many students, clients, colleagues, and organizations.

Other people inspire us by their capacity to affect individuals who need our help, one child at a time. In 1993, Dr. Leland Bennett was a successful private-practice speech-language pathologist in San Francisco, and was invited by the clinic director in the small town of Talpa, Mexico, to conduct a study of the town's residents with hearing loss. From that initial visit has grown the Talpa project, a special education school serving children with learning disabilities ranging from auditory and visual processing disorders to Down syndrome. Leland also is working with a small group of professionals to establish a sustainable training program for speech-language pathology through the University of Guadalajara. Such a program would help address Mexico's long-term need of producing its own SLPs and also ensure that Leland's legacy of caring lives on.

Some people inspire us because they've taken a path in which they give back to our country as well as to our professions. Vicki Tuten is that type of person. Her early work in audiology was providing mobile hearing testing for industry at a time when hearing conservation was still in its infancy. Her military assignments have included chief of audiology, chief of hearing conservation, and chief of the Fort Bragg Army Hearing Program. In her current assignment at the Office of the Surgeon General, she responds to congressional requests and works on policy issues related to audiology and hearing conservation. As an advocate for the hearing health of our military, Col. Tuten inspires us by using her experience to advance her profession and to serve her country.

Finally, there are people who inspire us simply by their daily dedication to those we serve. Consider Soloris Green, who first had a 30-year career in Los Angeles as a speech-language specialist teacher of students with multiple disabilities, and as minority recruiter for teacher staffing. Then, after retiring and briefly acting as a substitute teacher, she was rehired to help diverse and disadvantaged kids in Compton and South Los Angeles schools. Her career includes work with California's Communicative Disorders Advisory Board, as well as active participation in both the California Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the National Black Association for Speech-Language and Hearing. She has been a mentor to new SLPs and students, a career advisor and liaison for minority issues, consultant at national forums for schools in Washington, D.C., and a People to People delegate to South Africa.

I could go on. Our members' amazing stories sustain me and inspire me every day. So as I finish my term as president, I ask each of you to be a beacon of inspiration and turn your best intentions into actions. Your work is helping to make effective communication accessible and achievable for all.

cite as: Rao, P. R. (2011, December 20). From the President: Aspire to Inspire. The ASHA Leader.


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