Editor's Column - September 2006

This month I’ve been thinking about inspiration. In preparing to interview Josh Blue, I saw the usual press coverage about his being an inspiration to others. I asked him about being an inspiration to others with disabilities. His answer was in part a standard answer; he didn’t start out looking to become an inspiration to anyone. He went on to say that he just did what he loved. He told me who had inspired him, mentioning a few comedians who joked about things that most of us are uncomfortable talking about or doing. Ellen De-Generes, he said, talked about her personal life and its difficulties, but mostly she was just doing what she loved and she inspired him.

It made me wonder if it isn’t others’ courage that inspires us—having the courage to risk losing, or looking dumb or being different. Yet I also wonder why it should take courage to risk these things. Ultimately, don’t we decide whether we lost something or are smart and capable or are different in a way to be proud of? It’s easy to say, “Let’s be courageous,” but really, why don’t we all become a little more courageous and not be concerned with negative outcomes? One way to gain courage, I think, is to take the risk to look at new ideas, new activities, new people. William Dean Howells said, “The secret of the [person] who is universally interesting is that he is universally interested.” This might be a stretch—from being interested in things to being courageous and inspiring, but I think that’s what Josh is saying, too. He got interested in others who were doing what they loved, and he had the courage to know that that’s what he wanted. Mark Twain said, “I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can’t find anybody who can tell me what they want.” And I say, the only way we can find out what we want out of life is to try new things.

After several days at the State Fair, I’ve noticed how many new ideas pop up there every year. Have you ever tried corned beef and cabbage on a stick? Me neither, but maybe your new (and better) idea could be a big seller at the fair next year. So let’s get courageous and allow ourselves to experience new things. And really, who is more courageous than you yourself?

Speaking of interesting people, Pete Feigal is back writing for us. The article that Pete submitted this month is a little different than his usual columns. He took a risk—and I sure think he is successful in the storytelling genre. In his second paragraph he talks about courage and self-esteem: “It doesn’t happen overnight, even if we are quick learners.”

Pete’s life is a lesson in courage and risk-taking: he didn’t give up when he first began to loose his skills, but tried new ideas and activities. He found new ways to be successful. He became an educator and a sought-after motivational speaker. His artwork has landed him in the Aviation Hall of Fame for his pencil drawings of vintage aircraft. He has become a talented writer. Pete’s writing, many readers say, “tells the truth.” You can see yourself, but in new ways, in Pete’s words. That’s what makes his writing interesting and touches our emotions. Thanks, Pete, and we’re glad you’re back and healthy.

The article, “Access Denied at University of Houston,“ highlights another problem in interpreting the ADA. Right when the cost of special education in K-12 is being looked at so critically, it seems awfully coincidental that some in academia are questioning who has the authority to enforce ADA regulations. For those who are taking the risk to start (or continue) school this month, we must have the courage to demand and protect the accommodations that support their success