Wesley Hamilton, the Definition of Change

On Oct. 22, SOU’s Disability Resources and EPIC hosted guest speaker Wesley Hamilton. Hamilton is an award winning adaptive athlete, founder and CEO of non-profit Disabled, But Not Really, a motivational speaker, and was featured in an episode of Queer Eye.

The Siskiyou interviewed Eleanor Hobson, a fourth year student at SOU and Assistant Director of EPIC Events, about the process of bringing Wesley Hamilton to SOU. “Originally, our supervisor, Danielle Mancuso the Associate Director of Student Life for the Union and Traditions, saw his episode of Queer Eye,” Hobson said. “Then, we found out that his speaking fee was attainable for our budget. Since Wesley is a diverse identity within the disabled community, we thought it would be cool to bring him to uplift and educate students here at SOU.” 

Hobson explained, “For prep, we made sure to walk all the paths that Wesley would have taken on campus to the Music Recital Hall to make sure they were accessible by wheelchair. Our campus is not super accessible in some ways.”

For those that have not seen the show or heard of Wesley Hamilton before, he is an award-winning adaptive athlete, founder and CEO of a non-profit organization called Disabled, But Not Really, and a motivational speaker. However, his life was not always like this. A father at age 22, Hamilton gained sole custody of his daughter, Nevaeh, at 24 years-old. Shortly afterwards, Hamilton was shot in the abdomen, paralyzing the lower half of his body.

Throughout Hamilton’s talk, he mentioned that before his accident, he was a product of his environment and his community never wanted to change its mindset, “The way I looked at my injury, it only crippled me, [and] no one around me could show me that I was more than my circumstances.” After spending three years in recovery and being bed-ridden for two years with severe depression, something changed, “Despair was replaced with hope, and depression with motivation.” Hamilton elaborated, “When everything was taken away from me, when I was at my lowest point, is where I started to make change.” Since then, Hamilton took control of his life and finally feels free, “It is not about the limitations, it is about how limited your mind is,” he shared. Within a decade, Hamilton changed from living a life of negativity to one focused on happiness, control, and freedom. 

Following the event, the Siskiyou interviewed Marion DeVore, a fourth year student and the Peer Engagement Coordinator with Disability Resources at SOU. DeVore shared her excitement about Hamilton’s visit and discussed how, “Hamilton talked about how we can reframe what we are talking about and keep the positives in the forefront of our work. I couldn’t think of a better person to come on our campus at this point in time because we are starting to cause that change. Hamilton lit a fire in a lot of people.” 

When asked if DeVore would like to see more speakers like Hamilton at SOU she replied, “If we continue to bring speakers in like Wesley Hamilton, not only are we building a belief in ourselves, but we are building a belief in each other. We are building a community of support that isn’t just support, it’s hope for one another that we can cause change. In a world, right now, that seems unchangeable, it’s everything that we need.” 

Have any ideas for who should be the next guest speaker at SOU? Get in touch with Epic at epic@sou.edu!

Photo property of CNN

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