OUT OF THE FIELDS
My Journey From Farmworker Boy To Pediatrician
Book Excerpt from the Inspiring Story of Ramon Resa, MD:
Excerpt #8 of 17
RAMON RESA NOT ALLOWED TO BE VALEDICTORIAN BECAUSE HE STUTTERS…HE HAS THE HIGHEST GRADE POINT AVERAGE IN CLASS….
I end up with the highest grade point average in my eighth-grade class. I’ve kept my vow to myself to be the best student, and I’m looking forward to graduation but also feeling apprehensive. I don’t want to give the valedictorian’s speech, but I’m already practicing in front of the mirror.
I imagine the look on my family’s faces and how proud of me they’ll be when my name is called and I stroll across the stage to the podium. I’ll look out over the audience and when I spot my family I’ll give them a slight nod in acknowledgment. I hope I don’t stutter and mumble too much. I’ll give a wonderful speech, and everyone will cheer and clap after I finish. Then I’ll walk off the stage and back to my seat and I’ll sit down and very humbly accept my classmates’ acclaim.
Several weeks before the big day, I’m told to report to Mr. Sims’s office. I think they’re finally going to tell me I need to start working on my speech.
“Good morning, Raymond,” he says. “Please, sit down….How are you doing?”
“Good.” I’m lying. Actually, I’m nervous.
“Are you excited about going on to high school?”
“I guess you’re wondering why I asked you to come in.”
“Well, it’s about graduation day. I know you’re our best student, and you’ve done a great job here. And we’re proud of you.” Then he pauses. I wait.
“Well,” he says. “I’ll get to the point of why I called you in. “We’re going to have Elaine give the valedictorian’s speech. She’s right behind you grade-wise, and we feel she’ll do a better job because people will be able to understand her better. With your stutter and accent, people have a hard time knowing what you’re saying, and Elaine has a very good voice. You do understand, don’t you? We know you thought that being the best student… well…we’re going to let you do something. We want you to be the salutatorian and welcome everyone. All you have to say is ‘Welcome’…”
I stop listening. Then I say, “I understand,” and I leave his office.
And I think I do understand. I’ve been wondering myself how I was going to pull off giving the valedictorian’s speech. My friends and teachers are always asking me to repeat what I said or telling me to slow down. The more excited I get, the more I stutter. When I’m in a crowd or in front of the class, I’m hopeless. I can barely get the words out. I speak faster and faster in an attempt to get done more as fast as I can and end my misery. Deep down I do understand.
But that doesn’t stop me from being pissed off.
I’ve already told my friends what I’m going to say and that I’ve been practicing my speech. Now when they ask me what Mr. Sims said, I’ll have to tell them. No, I decide. I end up telling them that I didn’t want to do it. I tell them that Elaine worked harder and that she really wanted to speak more than I did.
I almost convince myself it’s the truth.
But this was my one chance to make my family proud of me and for me to feel like somebody. I worked so hard for it. I blame it all on my stuttering. I tell myself that if I didn’t stutter so much, it would all have been different.
RAMON RESA’S GRANDPARENTS DON’T BOTHER TO ATTEND HIS GRADUATION DAY…EVEN THOUGH THEY LIVE ACROSS THE STREET FROM SCHOOL
Graduation is anticlimactic. Ama and Apa don’t show up even though the school is right across the street from our house. I didn’t expect them to come. My eighth-grade graduation isn’t an important event like a funeral. I wonder if they would have come if I’d been the valedictorian. Probably not.
The graduation is held outside in the schoolyard. It’s very hot. I’m wearing a new white shirt and a tie that my brother Bill has lent me. It feels tight around my neck, even more so since I’ve never worn a tie in my life. I have to deliver the salutatorian’s welcome, and I’m sweating from the heat and my nervousness. As I walk to the podium, a breeze comes up and almost blows my speech out of my sweating hands. I’m shaking as I look out at the audience. As quickly as I can, I mumble my words and get off the stage.
I have no idea what Elaine says in her speech because the blood is still pounding in my head and all I can hear is the noise it makes inside my skull.
After she finishes, they call me up again. I receive the award for being the top student in our graduating class and certificates as best student in English, math, and history.