To be – Randy Panzarino

Randy PanzarinoAbout the Author:

Randy Panzarino is a person who stutters from Melbourne Beach, Florida. He is a graduate student at the University of Central Florida studying to become a speech-language pathologist. Randy is currently completing his final student clinical placement in the area of subacute and post-acute rehabilitation services. He has been engaged in research since his time as an undergraduate student, where his interests include the psychosocial impacts of stuttering. Randy deeply values his involvement with stuttering support organizations such as the National Stuttering Association and the Stuttering Association for the Young (SAY). In his free time, he enjoys surfing, mountain biking, traveling and spending time with friends and family.

This poem was originally written during my time as a bunk counselor at Camp SAY in 2019. Since then, the poem has been altered and expanded upon, but its core message has stayed the same. During my time at camp, surrounded by kindness and acceptance, the ideas within the poem speak to the empowering self-discovery I was experiencing at the time. Often, people who stutter, and people who do not stutter, stray away from seeking out their true selves in pursuit of appeasing others and avoiding social judgement. The poem is not only about saying what you want to say. It’s about feeling how you want to feel and being who you want to be. In alignment with the 2021 ISAD conference theme, “Speak the change you wish to see.”, the poem envisions a world in which we allow ourselves, and one another, the time and space to be who we truly are. For it is here which purpose and meaning is found.


To Be


Fear, avoidance, shame, rejection
Kindness, patience, love, connection

Heart racing, palms sweating, eyes wide, impending doom
I am me, it’s how I speak, it’s who I am, it’s what I do

The life I want involves expression
Not one in which I cower to this continual obsession
Of bending to the world, leaving false impressions
This is not freedom, this is oppression

Living life with a stormy rain cloud on your shoulder
Means worry and anxiety of which you are the beholder
Can’t I be sunny? Cool, calm and collected?
Must I always be so nervous to be judged or rejected?
Can I cry if I want? Laugh when I feel?
Can I agree, disagree, interject or appeal?

If I open my mouth will you listen to the words?
If they don’t come out smoothly, will it change what you heard?
Is my message received or ruined by means of which I conveyed?
Did I lose your attention, trust, or my credibility at “o-o-o-o-oookay?”

I know you’re uncomfortable, I see it in your face
An uneasiness grows as I struggle in pace

Show simple compassion, we’re both running a race
Compassion is time 
Time equals grace

Respect I deserve, I give it to you
Let benevolence guide us in all that we do

I’m broken and withered and behaviorally conditioned
Stigmatized, looked at funny, put in awkward positions
But no, this negativity will not come to fruition
For inclement weather fosters resilient disposition

To some it may seem like it’s not a big deal
But it’s often hard to express how I feel

Less important the vehicle of communicative transportation
More relevant the substance, one’s intentional declarations

The goal not fluency, the goal to be me
Unfiltered oration, my desire, my plea

My voice is unique, my message is clear
Say what you feel for all ears to hear

Deep down in valleys, high up on mountain tops
Unwavering an innateness, a yearning to talk

To be myself, unapologetic, non-adhering
To those trying to discredit me, I am persevering 

On a path to be triumphant, non-conforming, no explaining
Where vulnerability is strength, not something to be ashamed of 
One’s willingness to be open acts to catalyze the flames 
That conjure the emotions, encourage healing and positive change 

Here up will rise the deep inner souls of our being
Wherein lies one’s purpose and flows a spring of true meaning

In the midst of self-discovery is our chance at redeeming
Our legacy revealed, a path forged we’ve been dreaming
Like a joyous child who is haphazardly screaming
When we open ourselves, insecurities begin fleeting 
Pure self-expression, our hearts superseding
The grip of fear broken, an end to the bleeding
This our calling
What we’ve been seeking

Light floods the darkness, hope for those in despair
Something to hold on to, worthiness we bear 

Strength through our sorrows, rejoice in our victories
Not ashamed of who we are, for it’s no longer a mystery

Love thyself so we can love one another
Love others unconditionally, treat them as sisters and brothers

Your gift to the world is your giving of grace
Allow others the time, the patience, and space

To be who they are, for this is the key
As all that unites us is our longing to be

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To be – Randy Panzarino — 12 Comments

  1. Hi Randy!
    Your poem is beautiful, and I love the message it gives. The line that stuck with me the most was “Less important the vehicle of communicative transportation, More relevant the substance, one’s intentional declarations.” I love this because it emphasizes that the things people who stutter have to say are equally as important as the things people who do not stutter have to say, despite the different “vehicle” each of them take. Beautifully worded, thank you for sharing!

    • Hi Kristen,

      I sincerely appreciate your comment and am so glad the poem resonated with you. I wholeheartedly agree – what PWS have to say is so important and we stutter hope that our messages are not misconstrued due to our disfluencies.

  2. Hello Randy!

    What a beautiful poem!

    I appreciate you sharing this. I’m taking a course at California State University of Fullerton, and I plan to become a speech language pathologist. Our main focus in the course is to do no harm and learn from PWS. To listen, learn, and to be kind and much more.

    Your poem really resonated with me and has touched me!

    • Hi Ellie,

      Thanks so much for your kind words and for reading and reflecting on the poem. It was my hope that the poem would be relevant to both PWS and PWNS. Kudos to your professor for having students check out the ISAD conference – I think that is a brilliant way for one to learn more about the lived experiences of stuttering.

      Best wishes in the completion of your education and journey to becoming an SLP!

  3. Hi Randy, thank you for sharing this wonderful poem! Like another poster, these lines resonated with me: “Less important the vehicle of communicative transportation; More relevant the substance, one’s intentional declarations.” I am a master’s student in speech-language pathology, and I appreciated that these lines emphasize the importance of focusing on the meaning of someone’s message and not just how the message is presented.

    • Hello,

      Thanks for your kind comments. I agree – and something really amazing happens when we deeply listen to what others have to say.

      Best of luck in your journey to becoming an SLP!

  4. Hi Randy, thank you for sharing this beautiful poem! I felt as if I experienced your own journey through your writing. I am currently getting my master’s degree in speech-language pathology, and this poem was a wonderful reminder to always grant patients the time, space, and respect that they deserve. -Anna

  5. “Compassion is time, time equals grace” – I appreciated these lines…something I will ponder more deeply. So glad our field is gaining another SLP who stutters!

    Ana Paula

  6. Hi Randy,
    I am blown away by this poem and finished feeling inspired. I loved

    “The goal not fluency, the goal to be me
    Unfiltered oration, my desire, my plea”

    I am currently a senior in my undergrad, and have learned the importance of viewing our patients holistically and allowing PWS to be unapologetically themselves. It saddens me to read how the reactions of listeners can negatively impact PWS and I hope with representation this changes.

    Good luck on your SLP journey. You’ll be an amazing clinician

    -Alicia Barragan

    • Hi Alicia,

      Thank you so much, your comment means a lot and I am so glad the poem provided inspiration. I agree with your sentiments – and it sounds like you are on a path to helping many, many people in your career as a therapist.

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