BORN TO SUCCEED!
All of us want to do something extraordinary in life. We wish to achieve something amazing and want our efforts to be acclaimed by the world. We work hard and put in all our abilities, both physical and mental; to attain the goals we have set for ourselves in life; to prove our mettle to the world. But there are people not as lucky as us! They also have their dreams, goals and aspirations, but severe physical or mental handicaps make the task of pursuing this task more daunting.
Friends, I would like to share with you details about some gifted people, disabled but never dispirited! These are people who won world-wide acclaim in spite of being severely handicapped. With the help of their sheer determination, indomitable spirit and hard work, they have risen to world-wide fame. By refusing to surrender to their limitations, these people contributed positively to the world, making it a better place to live in and proving that they were born to succeed!
Thomas Edison (1847-1931)
Few of us know that the famous inventor Thomas Edison had a learning disability in his early life and was not able to read till he was twelve! Due to a bout of scarlet fever and recurring ear infections, he developed hearing problems at a young age. This problem further aggravated with time, leaving him nearly deaf. But his disability did not stop Edison from hard work and his iron will earned him world wide acclaim.
Edison has more than 1,000 patents to his credit. When we talk about the electric bulb, his name comes to our mind instantly. The telegraph system and the phonograph are two of his famous inventions which changed the world of communication. He also made significant contribution in improving the X-Ray technology, storage batteries and motion pictures. Girls will be interested to learn that he invented the world’s first talking doll.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Renowned Mathematician/Physicist, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921, had a learning disability and did not speak until age 3. He had a very difficult time doing Maths in school and had a weak memory. It was also very hard for him to express himself through writing. It is said that he did most of his experiment in his head, instead of a proper laboratory.
Einstein made many contributions to the field of theoretical physics and completely changed the way we understand the behavior of things as basic as light, gravity, and time.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945)
FDR, as he is fondly called by the Americans, is one of the most inspiring famous people of the world who had a major physical disability. Roosevelt was the president of USA who helped and guided the nation successfully during the World War II. Unfortunately, earlier in his political career, he contracted polio after drinking contaminated water at a campground. He was paralyzed from the waist downwards, but for several years, his illness was kept secret from the nation. During his entire tenure, he used a wheel chair and worked only from his office. But his disability did not affect his services to the USA, which he served in a memorable way!
Helen Keller (1880-1968)
Helen Keller, an American author, political activist and lecturer is a household name worldwide. Losing her abilities to speak, see and hear after an illness when she was only 18months old, she overcame the adversities of her life to become one of the 20th century’s leading humanitarians. Due credit must be given to her teacher Annie Sullivan, whose untiring efforts groomed her abilities to communicate in the sign language.
The first deaf/ blind/ mute person to get a Bachelors degree in Arts, Keller is famous for her campaigns for workers’ rights, for women’s right to vote in elections and many other progressive causes. She was outspoken in her views against wars. With Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller travelled to more than 39 countries and was especially popular among the Japanese
Keller’s disability in no way affected her social interactions. She met every US president from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon. B. Johnson and was friends to famous personalities like Alexander Graham Bell, Charlie Chaplin and Mark Twain. She received many awards during her lifetime to acknowledge her great accomplishments.
Two famous Helen Keller quotes are,
“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
2… “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched; they must be felt with the heart.”
Christopher Reeve (1952-2004)
The man who is better known by children as the ‘Superman’, Christopher Reeve attained fame due to his acting achievements. He was an American actor, film director, author and activist. In 1995, he was thrown off his horse while participating in a horse riding competition and was severely disabled. He needed a wheel chair and was on a portable ventilator to breathe for the rest of his life.
His disability made him a great lobbyist for people with spinal cord injuries and the stem cell research.
Ralph Brown (1940-2013)
Ralph Braun was diagnosed with Muscular Atrophy when he was only 7 years old, and in the next few years lost his ability to walk. Doctors were dubious about his spending an independent life, but he and his parents were determined to prove them wrong. From engineering the first battery powered scooter, he went on to design and manufacture wheelchair accessible vehicles. His efforts have changed the lives of disabled people worldwide.
In his autobiography “Rise Above”, Braun describes the challenges he faced as a young and disabled man and the poor regard society generally has for such people. He throws light on how his physical handicap strengthened his determination to be independent; to prove to the world that disabled people can also lead an active and productive life! He created the Braun Corporation which is the leading manufacturer of wheel chairs and accessible vehicles.
For his untiring efforts to make the lives of physically handicapped people better, Braun was named “Champion of Change” by President Barrack Obama.i
Stephen Hawking (born 1942)
A British physicist with a world renowned career spanning over 40 years, Stephen Hawking is regarded one of the greatest scientist of the 20th century second only to Einstein. He was diagnosed with a rare motor neuron disease (ALS), when he was only 21 and a student at the Cambridge University. Over the decades, this slow wasting disease gradually left him paralyzed as he lost control over his arms, legs and voice. Undaunted by his disability, he kept on his research work. He is still teaching with the help of a computer which is supported by a word compiling machine. He communicates using a single cheek muscle which is attached to the device.
Hawkins is the author of “A short History of the Universe” and “A brief History of Time.” His Big Bang and Black Hole theories have drawn the attention of the world. He is an academic celebrity and among many others is the recipient of Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the USA. His famous words worth quoting are, “However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.”
Saima Saleem, the first blind diplomat of Pakistan is often called the Hellen Keller of our country. Due to a genetic disease she lost her eyesight when she was in her teens. But undaunted by this major disability, she struggled to overcome all odds in her path. A gold medalist of the Kinnaird College University for women, she fought for her rights to appear for all her exams in Braille, as she refused to trust a writer’s ability. Saima’s indomitable will and determination enabled her to join Foreign Service, previously out of bounds for the blind. Never looking back, she struggled and succeeded in having a computer based exam in which she stood 6th among all the participants and first among the women.
Topping all training and exams, she went on to getting another gold medal from the Foreign Service Academy and a scholarship to a prestigious School of Foreign Service in USA. After joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saima has been working passionately to improve human rights in Pakistan. She is currently serving as Pakistan’s Permenant Mission to UNO in Geneva and is working on human rights’ issues in which she is considered an expert.
Friends these are facts about only a few disabled people who rose to famous due to their firm resolve and determination to not allow their handicap to interfere with leading a successful life. The list of such people is quite long. But there are millions of other ones who are not famous, but are still heroes. Heroes, because they live with, fight and overcome their disabilities every single day of their lives.