Vereen to ASHA Members: “You Are My Angels” Ben Vereen is a dynamo—he acts, sings, dances, and has an infinitely expressive face. He has won international acclaim and numerous honors as an actor, singer and dancer in theatre, film, and television. His Broadway shows range from “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “Hair,” to the lead role in “Pippin,” which ... ASHA Convention Coverage
Free
ASHA Convention Coverage  |   December 01, 2009
Vereen to ASHA Members: “You Are My Angels”
Author Notes
  • Marat Moore, managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be contacted at mmoore@asha.org.
    Marat Moore, managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be contacted at mmoore@asha.org.×
Article Information
ASHA News & Member Stories / ASHA Convention Coverage
ASHA Convention Coverage   |   December 01, 2009
Vereen to ASHA Members: “You Are My Angels”
The ASHA Leader, December 2009, Vol. 14, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.ACC2.14162009.np
The ASHA Leader, December 2009, Vol. 14, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.ACC2.14162009.np
Ben Vereen is a dynamo—he acts, sings, dances, and has an infinitely expressive face. He has won international acclaim and numerous honors as an actor, singer and dancer in theatre, film, and television. His Broadway shows range from “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “Hair,” to the lead role in “Pippin,” which won him the Tony. Or you may remember him as the unforgettable Chicken George in “Roots.” He also is a philanthropist; his “Celebrities for a Drug Free America” has raised more hundreds of thousands of dollars for drug rehabilitation centers, education centers, and community-based programs.
Vereen brought his shimmering talent and words of praise to the ASHA stage in New Orleans, where he delivered a keynote address during the Convention’s opening general session on Nov. 19.
“I came here to let you know the importance of your work, and to inspire you,” he adding, “I am the result of your work—in 1992 we met on a serious level.”
That year, a cascading series of accidents changed his life in a single, terrible day in June. After struggling for several years with addiction following the sudden death of his 16-year-old daughter, he had a car accident that damaged an artery to his brain.
“I didn’t know I was injured,” he said. “It was early in the morning and I started walking home along the Pacific Coast Highway.” As he was walking, he had a stroke as a result of the damaged artery, and then wandered into the highway and was struck by a truck.
Pronounced dead on the scene, Vereen survived, but barely. The left-hemisphere stroke affected his right side, his traumatic brain injury robbed him of speech, a tracheotomy was needed to help him breathe, and his spleen was removed. During his long rehabilitation—when physicians told him to consider another career—one doctor introduced Vereen to what he calls “my guides, my masters who brought me back into the light.” Voice trainer Bill Riley and his wife, speech-language pathologist Linda Carroll, focused on restoring Vereen’s speech and singing voice (see article at below by Riley about his treatment of Vereen.)
“Bill Riley and Linda Carroll made it possible for me to speak. They gave my life back to me,” he said. I kept working on my speech and would go to their house, and they would say, ‘You can do this. Have faith.’”
“Ten months later, because of these angels in my life, angels like you, I walked onstage at the St. James Theater, and invited all the doctors who said I couldn’t do it,” he said.
“That’s the importance of what you do. Don’t forget your impact on those of us who have fallen through the cracks, who have lost their ability to speak out.”
Vereen emphasized the importance of hearing and speech, and the collaboration of the two professions that provide those services.
“It’s important that you come together. When you can’t hear, people think you can’t speak, and when you can’t speak, they think you can’t hear.
“We need you because you don’t just look at what is, you look at what can be,” he said, to loud applause. “You chose your profession—and were chosen—because you have the power of healing.”
“Don’t ever be discouraged—you may reach someone who can save the world.”
Vereen then motioned to someone at stage right and led SLP Linda Carroll onstage.
“This is my doctor—Dr. Linda Carroll.” He looked at her. “Can I sing a song to you and all of ASHA?”
Vereen walked hand-in-hand with her toward the stage center, and sang “The Impossible Dream”: “To dream the impossible dream/ To fight the unbeatable foe/ To bear with unbearable sorrow/ To run where the brave do not go…”
A roar of applause rose up from ASHA attendees.
0 Comments
Submit a Comment
Submit A Comment
Name
Comment Title
Comment


This feature is available to Subscribers Only
Sign In or Create an Account ×
FROM THIS ISSUE
December 2009
Volume 14, Issue 16