For Alan Badmington, a retired police officer from Wales, freedom of speech has a very literal meaning - a freedom he said he owes to a native Nevadan.
"I have stuttered all of my life until three months ago when I attended a course in the UK," he said. "Since the course, my feet really haven't touched the ground."
Badmington learned to overcome his speech impediment through a course designed by Dave McGuire, of Minden, who was instrumental in starting Rite of Passage in Western Nevada.
McGuire, 53, went through a speech therapy program with Dr. Joe Sheehan, a professor of psychology at UCLA, but suffered severe relapses.
He moved to Europe in 1989 where he learned of a diaphragm training program developed by a famous opera singer in Amsterdam.
The program involved a breathing technique that McGuire combined with his previous therapy to create the McGuire Program, which he has been teaching to others since 1995.
Badmington signed up for the course at his wife's insistence three months ago. Until then, he had almost given up on thinking he could ever overcome the disability.
"The stutter had been such a major part of my life for over half a century," he said.
Badmington was moved from patrol work to desk work on the police force because of his stuttering.
"I couldn't give evidence in court," he said. "I couldn't complete the oath."
He was passed up for promotions, even after finishing third nationwide on an exam for accelerated advancement.
His supervisor wrote in one of his reviews, "Without doubt the only reason he has not been considered for promotion is his speech impediment. It was in court that his impediment was most marked and then it was an embarrassment to all involved."
The program consists of an intensive four-day training. Former students become the next instructors.
On the first day, the new students are asked basic questions and their responses are video taped.
"It takes many of them three to four minutes just to say their names," Badmington said. "Many of them have become so reclusive. They're withdrawn from society because the easiest way to overcome a stutter is just not to speak."
On the second day, they are taught breathing techniques and assertiveness.
"You have to accept your stutter," Badmington said.
The third afternoon is the pivotal point. The students all head down to the mall and each of them takes a turn climbing on top of a soap box to give a small speech to the crowd.
"It is really amazing," Badmington said. "These people, who three days earlier, would not have said boo to a goose, literally fight amongst themselves to be the first person to stand on the box and announce their names and tell the world at large why they are there."
The final day, they review the video tapes from the first day and many are moved to tears.
"What an experience," Badmington said. "The debilitating shackles which have inhibited our speech for so many years have been removed."
The key to the program is not so much what happens in the seminar but what happens after it is over.
Each student is assigned a personal coach to help them over the next three years. They are also given phone numbers of other recovering stutterers in their area to call when they need support.
Bill Windsor, who ran a national business in Australia, was assigned a coach who was the sales manager of a national lumber company.
Early one morning, the coach called Windsor in a panic. He had a business meeting later that morning and he was stuttering badly. He was afraid of losing a million-dollar contract in the meeting.
"We spent an hour on the phone just working through his problem," Windsor said. "I spoke to him as if I was his coach."
Windsor and Badmington are both traveling through the United States for different reasons and met last week.
The program is coming to the United States for the first time next month, where the Stuttering Foundation of America estimates that more than 3 million people stutter. A seminar will be given at Circus Circus in Reno Oct. 12-15.
"I owe so much to a man from Minden, Nevada. He went through hell with his own speech, but now he's recovered," Badmington said. "He passed on his method of recovery to the rest of the world and at last he's coming home, which I know is giving him so much satisfaction."
If you go:
What: McGuire Program, stuttering therapy
When: Oct. 12-15
Where: Circus Circus in Reno
To make reservations or for more information, contact Kathleen Vizcaino (707) 775-2515, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Bob Young (707) 996-7880, email: email@example.com