He's wheeled past the Eiffel Tower, he's wheeled past the leaning tower of Pisa, he's wheeled across the Golden Gate Bridge and the Great Wall of China. Tonight I saw this legendary man speak at his former post-secondary school of UBC.
If you don't know who I'm talking about yet maybe this will help, have you ever heard of the Man in Motion? Yes, that's right the amazing Rick Hansen!
Saying he's inspiring is an understatement. Saying he's remarkable is just too true. I left that room of the Chan Centre tonight speechless; he made me think about what I can do, because you know "Anything is Possible".
I've never heard a speaker who could be so humorous, so captivating and so inspiring at the same time. And he was humble too!
He said that people with disabilities have abilities, and that no-where in the rules of sport says that you have to use your legs. What powerful words.
After his speech, there were crowds swarming him to ask questions and take photos. When we got to the front of the crowd, instead of being annoyed with us, Rick seemed genuinely happy to meet us. When we were asking questions, he didn't look like our words were meaningless to him, but rather he was actually interested in what we have to say. No matter how many people asked for his autograph, he never once lost his patience, but every time looked like he was enjoying the people he was meeting. I think the world needs some more genuinely kind people like Rick. And his smile too, would just brighten your day.
Before we walked into the theatre, we were talking about how there are 5 sports in the Paralympic Games compared to the 15 in the Olympic Games. Since 1948 when the Paralympic Games first started with one sport, we have come a long way, but what's stopping them from growing even bigger? Why could they not include sledge speed skating, or ski cross, snowboarding or luge? I know that it's not the technology that's holding us back, so what is? Is it a financial thing, is it that people just don't put in the effort? So I asked Rick if he thinks the future looks bright for more sport inclusion in the future Paralympic Games. His answer was that yes, there's no doubt about it that the Paralympic Games are growing and in time there will be many more events, it takes time. The process of getting a sport included in the Games is a long battle. It usually takes many years, but just like ski-cross in these Olympic Games, eventually they will be included. And it most certainly isn't the technology that's holding us back, we all know that.
The part of Rick's speech which hit me the hardest was when he was talking about his accident back when he was 16 years old. He said how he went to the hospital after not being able to feel his legs and the doctors said to him "Well Rick, you've injured your spine and you will never walk again." He said "Oh well that could be a challenge." And yes, it was a challenge, but it was a challenge that Rick overcame and then some. Very few people have ran across the entire globe, and even fewer have with no legs, and that is why Rick Hansen is such a legend. But not only that; while most would sit there feeling sorry for themselves, Rick took the opportunity to create a change in the world. He thought of the accident more as an opportunity than as an obsicle. He would be the one to prove that someone with a disability is capable of anything the average person can do. He would be the one to equalize people with disabilities to people without. Overall he would be the one to prove that "Anything is Possible".
You know that someone has done great things when they were chosen as one of the final torchbearers for the Olympic Games, and you know someone has done great work when this month will be the 25th Anniversary of the Man in Motion World Tour, which was the start of the outstanding progress in spinal cord injury research. In those 25 years, Canada has become a world leader in treatment, research and quality of life initiatives. Though we still have work to do before all people with disabilities can have full accesibility and participation in the world, and before every person can recover from a spinal cord injury and lead a normal life. But there's no doubt in my mind that in the near future Rick’s dream of a cure for spinal cord injury and a fully accessible and inclusive world will be be succeeded.
If you believe in a dream and have the courage to try, great things can be accomplished. Anything is possible. - Rick Hansen