You'll find hundreds of files on cleft lip, cleft palate here on widesmiles.org.

This one is about: What It's Like to Be Different


(c) 1996 Wide Smiles
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WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE DIFFERENT
by Patrick J Esmonde

(Note: Patrick Esmonde was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. He presented the following speech while a fifth-grade student and placed first in a competition of 200.)

The values of importance to me are to have respect for others, kindness to all and to have great patience. I set my values through the examples of my parents, teachers and friends. Do you know what it is like to be different? I DO!

Do you know what it is like to be laughed at, teased by people your own age and be called names by your own peers? I DO!

I'm Pat, and I was born with a cleft lip and palate. While God took something away from me in to being physically perfect, he gave me some extra things that no one else may have. He gave me the strength to face my peers without running away and to be strong inside when I go for the many surgeries that are needed. He also gave me a good brain, because He knows I will be missing a lot of class time when my surgery starts again soon.

My parents always told me, "Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you." In other words, I don't like to be teased, so I won't tease others. To me, this reflects the important values of respect, kindness, and caring. I may think that my parents are old fashioned, but the values that they grew up with are the same values that they are trying to teach me, and I will go on to teach my children these same values. Time changes and we all must change with time, but the values that we grow up with must not change with time.

You may all know the old saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover." This should hold true in everything that you do and say in life. Whether a person is in a wheelchair or a person must use crutches to walk, whether a person has one leg or no arms, this person deserves the same respect, fairness and kindness because you really don't know that person until you have walked in his or her shoes.

A good example of this was the 32nd president of the United States. His name was Franklin D Roosevelt. He was stricken with Polio at the age of 39, which paralyzed both of his legs. He had to learn to walk with leg braces and he sometimes used a cane. But this man went on with his life and 12 years later he became the 32nd president of this great nation. This affliction didn't stop him.

Also, there is a movie actor named Stacey Keach. Some of you may know him from the movies but I know him in a different way. Stacey Keach was born with a cleft lip and palate. You can't see his lip because he has a mustache. But this birth defect didn't stop him. He went on and starred in many movies.

I'm only 10 years old and I already climbed many mountains in my life. After I climb each mountain, there always is another one to challenge me. I do fall down sometimes but I'm learning to get up on my own without my parents' help.

Moving to Florida a year ago and leaving some very good friends and family behind was hard. Most kids never saw a person with a cleft lip. I was teased and called a lot of different names. My parents helped me through some of those hard times but they couldn't be with me every minute of the day. The few friends that I have now are good friends and they don't see me as a person with a birth defect. They accept me as Pat. The other kids just don't understand, or I guess they don't want to understand. I'm not perfect, but as I grow older I'm learning to accept and understand these
people the way they are and hope that one day they will accept people for what they are inside.

Kids have rights, but kids don't have the right to tease when someone is different. I have learned these values very early in life and will try very early in life and will try every day to practice and teach other kids these values through my example. Kids will be adults. So let's learn and start now when we are kids and not when we are adults.


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