Greg Smith Keynote Speaker

Leadership Expert on Resiliency and Inner Strength – Greg helps leaders and teams “Go Full-Strength!” for maximum productivity.

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Inner Strength insights from the world of sports, disability, entertainment, business, politics and everything else I’d like to share with you.

An Open Letter to the Disability Rights Community

I’m Not a “Super Crip”

I’ve always had dreams.  My first dream was to be an athlete.  As a child, I learned that wouldn’t be possible, so eventually I set another big dream… to be an announcer for an NFL team.  As I approached the realization of that dream as host of Cardinal Talk on the Arizona Cardinals Radio Network, I realized that I had a more important contribution.  That’s not meant to slight sportscasters.  I envy them. But I felt a calling to change the world’s perception of people with disabilities through mass media, and in the process, help along the necessary changes for people with disabilities.

That’s why I started “On A Roll – Talk Radio on Life & Disability.” After 14 years of talking about the same changes needed in the world of disability rights, I realized the strength to make these changes would come from economic power (political power) from within our movement.  I decided that instead of raising the same issues for another 14 years, it would be better to help our people believe in ourselves, set high goals, and define ourselves instead of accepting the definition that society labels us with (dependent, isolated, sexless, jobless, envious… to name a few).  This would lead to employment, income, financial power and the ability to establish momentum in our movement.

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As I started to research self advocacy, self determination, motivation and inner strength, I realized that the formulas for success are no different for people with disabilities than for anyone.  And there is room for improvement in these areas for everyone.  That’s why I shelved “On A Roll” and became “The Strength Coach.”

I know there is a stigma about the stereotypical “motivational” disabled person, the “super-crip” who accomplishes amazing things despite his/her disability.  I hope you don’t see me in that way.  I’m simply a person who has always had big dreams, who has always defined himself instead accepting the box that society wanted to place me in, and never gave up on my dreams.  My disability has nothing to do with those traits.  Furthermore, disability crosses the entire spectrum of human characteristics.  As a result, there are motivational people with disabilities and depressing people with disabilities.  Funny people. Sad people.  Angry people. Happy people. Brilliant people and bonehead people.  Straight people and gay people.   I just happen to be a motivated and motivational person.

Speaking of gay people, their movement should be an example to the disability rights movement. They have economic power, political power and the attention of the mass media.  Every day, without exception, there are gay rights issues in the news.  More and more, movies and television shows have homosexual characters and story lines.  I dream of a day when  the disability community will get the same respect and focus that our gay brothers and sisters have earned.  To get there we need to feel good about ourselves, establish our dreams, define ourselves, and be persistent.

To fans of the old “On A Roll” show, I want to let you know that I didn’t abandon you.  I wanted to explain my motivation, and I want to ask you to help fan the flames of the new “Inner Strength Movement.”  Forward the message.  Subscribe to the blog.  And look for opportunities for me to personally bring the message to the people you most want to inspire.  Thanks for your support over these many years!

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10 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Disability Rights Community

  1. The disability community definitely needs to be more empowered to advocate and not settle for whatever comes along.

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  3. Hi Greg–right on my friend. I’ve been in the field of disability advocacy for over 30 years and feel that although the laws have progressed immensely the results are very much lagging behind. Part of me thinks that the delay in response/action is partly the fault of the disability community. We need to get mad, or at least more so than we’ve been. I’ve met a lot of people with disabilities who just want to leave it up to the others. If everyone does that obviously we will get nowhere. But we do need a focal point. A central “headquarters” to pick up where our past leaders left off. We need lobbyists with money and a more solid sense of community. Political power is essential because as a community we have become complacent . We need action by everyone. Although I’ve retired, I still have some fight in me. I think you, your show and your exposure to the public could be this focal point. People just don’t care until we yell loud enough and demonstrate that we possess the ability to have power as a group – all disabilities united.

  4. Thank, you Greg, for this. It’s such a shame that we have to use labels to differentiate because what it so often does is separate. I love your message that under it all people are just people – happy, sad, jerks, etc., whether they’re gay, disabled, or what-have-you. I will continue to follow you for sure. I’m grateful to Meagan O’Nan for posting your blog – hers is a similar message, and it’s such an important one. I hope we continue to hear more voices like both of yours.

  5. Donna, I think that you’re right, the Gay community is galvanized by a response to the needless fear and narrow-minded attitudes that are all too popular. But I also feel that the disability movement already has an equally negative catalyst… total disregard, devaluation, and pity. Maybe we’re not angry enough? I don’t know. Maybe we need to believe in ourselves and our ability to make change. What do others think?

  6. Well put, Greg. There is definitely room for traditional advocacy. Advocates play an important role, but we do need more “self-advocates” who lead by example and inspire others to maximize their potential. The best way for us to get ahead, is for the walking world to respect us for our contributions to their world.

    • Just a thought…would the Gay community be SO much in the media if it were not because of the people who use us to promote fear, especially around elections? Yes, the community would like to have the same civil rights and protections as “all” citizens, blah, blah, blah… But there seems to be more than a few nutjobs out there that for some reason are obsessed with homosexuality in a negative way and find need to constantly use hate and fear to attempt to demonize a group of people who look and act just like “normal” people. I agree that as an organized effort, the fight for equality for gay people is strong. I would hate for the disability movement to have to find such motivation from such a negative catalyst. I agree with you that more attention needs to be focused on the disability rights community, especially in mass media. Perhaps Congress can be the nutjob-villain in this case, with the attack on social programs and funding. Make sense?