Triumph over tragedy: Mallory Weggemann at TEDxUNPlaza
Mallory Weggemann shares her incredible story of her amazing abilities by winning gold and setting a Paralympic Record in the 50m freestyle. It has been deemed one of the most memorable moments of the London Games, and it inspired many across the world.
Just two months prior to her 19th birthday, Mallory Weggemann went in to receive her third and final epidural injection to help treat back pain caused by postherpetic neuraglia. The epidural injections that were supposed to help with the debilitating pain instead left Weggemann a paraplegic with complete loss of movement from her abdomen down. But instead of focusing on the life she lost, she did the incredible, creating a new life for herself. Within four months of her paralysis, Weggeman was back in the swimming pool, and less than four years later had set 15 world records and 33 American records as well as proceeded to win gold and bronze at the 2012 London Paralympics.
Now, in addition to competing internationally and training for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Weggemann is an international speaker, delivering messages that are not only inspirational, but also offer valuable lessons in leadership, attitude and survival in the face of tremendous odds.
Weggemann’s story is told through her personal reflections and journal entries throughout her ordeal; it is also a challenge to each of us as we consider the ways that we handle disappointments and setbacks in our own lives. In a voice that has inspired audiences as varied as high school students to Fortune 100 executives, Weggemann engages in an intimate and honest dialogue. From the raw emotions of her earliest journal entries to the jubilant celebration of each triumph of independence and accomplishment along the way, Weggemann chronicles her personal writings and emotions as she found herself submerged in a new life—and rose to emerge infinitely stronger, tougher and freer than she ever was before.
It is with tremendous enthusiasm and genuine frankness that Mallory Weggemann shares her story—a story she insists is still unfolding—with the world. Her journey did not begin or end with the day she was paralyzed. That was merely one event among many in her life that has shaped but not defined her. The same, she insists, is true for any one of us. Whatever circumstances we face that may handicap us, we all choose daily whether we will allow those limitations to power over us or whether we will face down our challenges in a journey towards our own new mobility.
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Personal Story: Everything Happens for a Reason (includes moving anecdotes from personal journals)
Mallory Weggemann discusses the day she became paralyzed back in January 2008, and her initial struggles to cope with the fact that everything she knew for nearly 19 years of her life changed in literally the blink of an eye. After months of self-reflection, Mallory slowly started to find her own answers to her number one question—why? It slowly became very evident to her that everything happens for a reason and she shares this very rare emotional journey with the audience by sharing her personal journals from throughout each of her experiences. Mallory’s story sends the audience through their own self-reflection as she challenges everyone to realize their own journey and insists that no odds are too large to overcome.
You’re the Best, You Can Make a Difference and You Can Change the World
The phrase spoken to Mallory Weggemann and her sisters by her father every night before they went to bed is something which Mallory lives by every day. Mallory emphasizes that everyone goes through struggles and everyone has some sort of “disability,” some of them just not as obvious as hers. Yet, everyone has the ability to overcome their “disabilities” and make a difference (big or small) in the world. With her unique ability to speak to a packed house, and yet make every individual feel as if they are involved in a personal conversation, Mallory presented a challenge to her audience while speaking at the United Nations in September 2013: “Live your life with passion, with heart, free of fear, hate and judgment, be courageous, and know that in any given moment you can make a difference and you can change the world by your simple actions.”
Baby Steps: An Intimate Discussion on the Basic Forms of Leadership
Mallory Weggemann breaks down the pillars of leadership into a more simplistic form—baby steps. As she insists that the only way to take a daunting task, a looming challenge, a seemingly unsurmountable obstacle and conquer it is through baby steps themselves. In October 2008, Mallory found her own personal life was focused on change. Through her journey and self-reflection, she discovered that one of the greatest qualities leaders can present is the ability to adapt to change. Mallory’s story appeals to anyone seeking a genuine and, at times, raw examination of one young woman’s journey through grief to the top of the Paralympic medal platform, from being confined to a chair to learning to walk again. Even though her spine will never heal, her spirit is active, captivating and unstoppable
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