Two-time ESPY award winner Kyle Maynard speaks at MU for Celebrate Ability Week

Kyle Maynard addressed students about perseverance and challenging themselves.

On Oct. 15, speaker, author and two-time ESPY award-winning athlete Kyle Maynard spoke at Tate Hall as part of the events for Celebrate Ability Week, an annual event at MU started in 2010 to, “celebrate disability rights, awareness and culture.”

“My message is there’s no good excuses,” Maynard said at the beginning of his speech, summarizing his message and philosophy of self-determination and perseverance.

The timing of this year’s events Celebrate Ability Week coincided with the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

Maynard shared his life experiences and perspectives with a near-capacity crowd in the Tate Hall auditorium.

Maynard emphasized everyone’s ability to achieve their goals regardless of outside circumstances using his own life as an example. Despite being a congenital amputee (born without functional arms or legs), Maynard is a successful motivational speaker and entrepreneur, a champion wrestler, MMA fighter and weightlifter. In 2011, he became the first quadruple amputee to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro without use of prosthetics.

Instead of focusing on his achievements, Maynard made the audience the main focus of his message that night. He urged them to unlock their own potential in spite of whatever may be holding them back.

“What’s the single biggest excuse in your life that’s keeping you from reaching whatever ability it is that you have?” Maynard asked. “If you just were to go and confront that one thing, how different could your life look in a year?”

This helped the audience reflect on their decisions.

“He makes you think about what limits you put on yourself,” Mizzou Unity Coalition President Gabby Vest said.

Maynard also stressed the importance of persistence in the face of failure.

“We all have a certain comfort zone with things that we’re comfortable doing.” Maynard said. “The only time that you experience growth in your life is outside of that comfort zone doing things that expose us to failure.”

As an example, Maynard used his own experiences while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, confessing that by the fourth day he wanted to quit. Maynard ultimately found inspiration from a promise he had made to the mother of an American soldier who was killed in Afghanistan to carry her son’s ashes to the summit.

“Giving yourself to something greater, doing something for somebody else—having that sense of purpose is the best cure for fears and doubts and anxieties that we know of on the planet,” Maynard said.

Although Celebrate Ability Week was hosted by the Disability Center, the Department of Student Activities largely organized Thursday night’s event.

Lauren Giwa-Amu, co-chair of DSA’s Speaker’s Committee, said Maynard had many characteristics that appealed to the committee.

“We looked at his videos, his speaking engagements,” Giwa-Amu said. “(Maynard) not only speaks well but has many positive experiences to share.”

For both DSA and the Disability Center, it was those unique experiences and perspectives that set Maynard apart from other similar speakers.

“(DSA and the Disability Center) didn’t want a inspirational speaker,” Giwa-Amu said. “There’s going to be a lot of people in the audience that are living with disabilities, and we didn’t want someone who was going to downplay those disabilities.”

The response from students who attended the event was largely positive.

For sophomore Katie Parkins, Maynard was an “incredible choice.”

“His ability to combine humor and an empowering message made him all the more relatable,” Parkins said. “He truly embodies the spirit of Celebrate Ability Week.”

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