Dare to Do What Others Have Doubted You Can

The following is a transcript of the commencement address I gave on May 10 to my graduating class at Indiana University:

As the student commencement speaker, perhaps my admission that I am far from the best orator comes to you as a surprise. As a person who stutters, I can be no more certain that in this room are thousands of people who are more talented at public speaking than I am. At the same time, however, I can be no more certain that the message I have to share must be heard.

Far too often, society has instilled and reinforced the idea that those of us with disabilities are to remain disabled -- perhaps even incapable. Whether one is bound to a wheelchair, suffers from ADHD, or repeats the first syllable of a word as I do, we have been tacitly, yet resoundingly told to doubt both ourselves and our abilities.

Doubt, as has been observed, kills more dreams than failure ever will.

Yet, if doubt were to be a disease, its cure would be confidence. Since arriving here in 2010, I have noticed that Indiana University exists as the exception to the aforementioned rule; the antidote to the poison of doubt.

I am most proud to credit Indiana University for providing me with the confidence to apply for my various internships. In addition to FOX News and the US House Committee on Homeland Security, I served some of the most high-profile lawmakers in the country. Despite my speech disorder, I answered thousands of phone calls in the office of Eric Cantor, Majority Leader of the US House. I conducted tours of the U.S. Capitol on behalf of Florida Senator Marco Rubio. And I made thousands of outreach calls for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

I mention those experiences not out of individual pride or vanity, but out of desire to share Indiana University's role in instilling the idea that someone who was barely able to talk for himself can dream big enough to talk for public servants who represent local, statewide, and national constituencies.

While any other university might have instructed me to manage those expectations, IU taught me to grow them.

I am certain that IU has done the same for all of you graduating here today, whether your challenge is as overt as mine or known only by you.

Thus, when you look up at your IU diploma on the wall of your office or home, you are not just looking at the extraordinary achievement that is an IU education. You are looking at a dare.

You are not just looking at the knowledge that you have gained as to how to change our world; you are looking at a dare to do so.

Beethoven was deaf; imagine if he had never dared to listen to his calling to compose music.

Ray Charles was blind; imagine if he had never dared to envision that he could touch the keys of a piano.

Albert Einstein was dyslexic; imagine if he had never dared to embrace seeing things differently by formulating equations.

FDR couldn't walk; imagine if he had never dared to run.

Imagine what you are depriving our world of if you never dare to achieve your purpose.

As such, today, I issue the Indiana University challenge to you.

I challenge you to stop believing in those who cast doubt upon you and to start believing in yourselves.

I challenge you to shift your thinking such that when opportunities come before you, you don't ask yourself why me -- you ask yourself why not me.

I challenge you, therefore, to take a step forward -- to dare to do what others have doubted that you can.

I challenge you to take that step forward not despite your disabilities, your hurdles, or your hesitancies, but because of them.

I challenge you to take that step forward not because doing so would be easy, but as President Kennedy once declared, because it would be hard.

Yet, above all, I challenge you to take that step forward because -- as Indiana University has taught us, it is possible.

Video clip of my speech: