“I am, beneath everything else, a fan. I was fixed in this mode as a young boy and am awed by people who take the risks of performance.” –Roger Ebert

Pulitzer-winning and legendary Chicago Sun-Times film critic, Roger Ebert died today of cancer at the age of 70. Ebert gained nationwide fame when he and Chicago-Tribune film critic, Gene Siskel paired up on the decades-long TV show Sneak Previews in which both critics would give films their signature “two thumbs up/down” ratings.

It was 2006 when Ebert started treatments for thyroid cancer; suffering numerous setbacks after many procedures and surgeries, he lost the lower portion of his jaw–as well as his ability to speak and eat. While his facial appearance was alarmingly morphed, his mind remained fully active and intact; he was a man who remained “talkative” and needed to communicate. Thus began a long journey of finding ways to communicate effectively and efficiently with others. Finding a new vocal life in blogging, the internet became a substitute for everyday conversation. He also used the computerized audible voice of “Alex” standard to all MacIntosh computers to communicate with others although it had limited ability to convey inflection, feeling, as well as the unique stamp of his personal voice. “I was living in a fools paradise,” Ebert’s “Alex” voice says reminiscing of his precancerous days when he could speak using his own voice.

But don’t we all take our voices for granted? When you wake up in the morning, and set your goals for the day, it’s almost certain that speaking is not one of them. Of course you’ll be able to  speak! So, appreciate the gift and make the most of it. Your voice reflects not only your vocal chords and mouth structure but likewise expresses the tapestry of your life. Like a fingerprint–but so much more complex–your voice channels your energy and what makes you unique, special, and worthwhile. This is not to stroke your ego but it’s simply the plain truth. Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time. Embrace what makes you unique. The acting field talks a lot about one’s “look.” Just as essential to your image is your voice. You will create a version of a character that will never be identical to anyone else’s. So appreciate your voice, charge it with energy, slather on your originality, and don’t hold back in your career!