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    15th April 2012

    My Swim With Mike speech (the power of story)…

    Swim With Mike was yesterday and was a great success. The weather cooperated and a great time was had by all. Don’t believe me? Even the UCLA-loving-anti-USC blog BeatSC calls a truce with USC one day a year for Swim With Mike. (Click the link to find out why…).

    For me, I’m a little glad it’s over because it means I can focus on my schoolwork again for a few weeks. One of the highlights of this year’s event for me was being a featured speaker at the main ceremony. I talked about some of the reasons I think Swim With Mike is an important event and organization. Here is (more or less) the text of the speech (though there were also divers warming up on the diving platforms drawing oohs and ahs from the marching band that distracted me from a few lines):

    You’ve heard a little about my story already and I would love to talk to you more about that story any time today, so don’t hesitate to say hello. First thank you to the volunteers. Thank you also to all of our participants and donors. (I wrote down what I wanted to say because I tend to talk too much).

    I’m becoming an English teacher in large part because I believe in the power of story. I believe that when we tell our stories we share part of who we are, fulfilling a deep need that we all have to be known. And when we truly listen and allow ourselves to be affected by each other’s stories we are transformed, becoming more understanding, compassionate – and passionate – people.

    There is nothing more powerful than the story of people overcoming tragedy and fulfilling their potential, and each Swim With Mike recipient – and many of you who are volunteers or participants – has such a story.

    Swim With Mike is important because it meets a need for the individual recipients, enabling them to move forward and realize their potential. I am so thankful for the support I have received from Swim With Mike, both in terms of finances, and in terms of peer support from getting to know my fellow recipients.

    Swim With Mike is also important because individuals with disabilities are at risk in this society we live in, and education mediates this risk and provides greater opportunity. The recipients in Swim With Mike are positioned well to become leaders in whatever they do, which increases the visibility of people with disabilities, can change normative attitudes, and I believe this will improve life for all those that come after.

    But Swim With Mike is also important because through it powerful stories are told. All of you here are now part of this story, and you will go out and tell others about what happens here every April, and about all of the incredible people that are here. And as our stories spread, the world will become a better place for all of us, with less inequality and more justice – and when more people can live with more freedom; when the quality of life is raised for some – all people benefit with a higher overall quality of life. When our lives are enriched by the stories of others, our quality of life necessarily improves as well.

    Thank you all so much for being here. Mike, Ron Orr, Pat Haden, the whole USC Trojan family, the Trojan marching band, the Song Girls, the football team, volunteers, and participants: Thank you!

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    Copyright 2005 by Daryl Holmlund - All rights reserved.