By Clara Perron
Spencer West is an author, a speaker, a human rights advocate, a son and an uncle. His inspirational stories include the challenges he overcame early on in his life, his summit up Mt. Kilimanjaro, his strenuous marathon, and his time spent helping the children in Kenya. Ultimately these achievements were all indicative to the UNH community of how much we can truly achieve. His legs were also amputated from the pelvis down at just 5 years old.
For the finale of the Current Issues Lecture Series here at UNH, West came to speak on the importance of making change through our society and its perspectives. The Americans with Disabilities Act, the Institute on Disability, and others helped to organize this event. West’s story brought in a full crowd ranging from students to faculty in the Strafford room this past Wednesday evening at 7 p. m.
West shared how throughout his life he was told of the “can’s and cant’s”, but instead he and his family focused on the “how’s.” He stressed the importance of perceiving the challenges as lessons, which can lead to the “how’s” of overcoming them. His three steps: “Find the Lesson, Ask for Help, and Create Social Value,” all spoke to how we can achieve greater value within our community to make a change.
“My biggest challenge is getting people to see past [my disability] and instead focusing on my heart,” said West.
West shared how the biggest lesson to him is to change the perceptions on those with disabilities. He told how reflection on what must be learned from each challenge, is necessary for this first step, “Find the Lesson.”
“A true leader knows when to ask for help,” said West.
He shared how his second step helps to lead many to inspiration of making change. There can be no change without any helped asked. West recounted his summit up Mt. Kilimanjaro where he and his best friends supported each other throughout the way.
He realized how without their help, during the times where he could no longer walk on his hands any further, he wouldn’t have made it. Leading to his last step, “Create Social Value,” West shared how anyone can add value within their community, even if it’s just from a sports team or community service. We can all create social and monetary value, which can further make a difference for the community.
“Like Dr. Seuss said, ‘Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way,” concluded West. The audience was ecstatic over West’s presentation. Many lined up to ask questions and receive autographs at the end.
“It’s nice, as a future occupational therapist, to hear about these challenges that will be similar to who I will soon be working with”, said senior Emily Zarow.
Assistant Director of the Memorial Union Building & Student Activities, David Zamansky, plans on bringing many more inspiring stories to next semesters lecture series.