At 26 years old, Blake Leeper has won seven medals, including a gold medal, competing at international track and field events in short-distance sprint. Leeper’s accomplishments are even more notable considering that when he was born, doctors didn’t think he would be able to ever run.
Born without legs below his knees, Leeper has overcome many challenges to get where he is at today. On Jan. 28, he spoke before a small crowd in the Shepherd Union Ballroom to encourage them to reach for their dreams through dedication and optimism.
“One of my favorite quotes is from (former college football coach) Lou Holtz, and he said, ‘Life is 10 percent what you’re dealt with, and 90 percent how you deal with it’,” Leeper said. “My 10 percent is my legs. That’s who I am, I have no control over that. But I still have 90 percent to wake up each day, put a smile on my face, walk out that door and say, ‘I’m gonna show the world what I can do’.”
Leeper said his optimism in life stemmed from the day he was born and the promise his parents made.
“They said, ‘We made a decision right then and there we were gonna do two things. One, we’re gonna stick together through the good, the bad and the ugly. Whatever happens, we’re gonna stick together as a family, as a unit. And two, we’re gonna keep a positive attitude towards the whole situation’,” Leeper said.
Leeper said it was that constant optimism that helped get him to where he is today.
“He had a lot of really good things to say about motivation, determination, getting things done in your life,” said Jed Craner, a history major who attended the event.
Craner said he enjoyed the fact that Leeper was able to apply his personal experiences and make them relatable to the audience and their everyday lives.
Pat DeJong, an academic advisor in the Department of Engineering Technology, agreed with what Craner said, adding that she found it very motivational that Leeper spoke about his disability not being the fact he was born without legs but rather what other people assumed about him and how he must overcome those prejudices.
“Yes, I have two disabilities, but I still have a thousand other abilities that makes me a special person,” Leeper said.
The next speaker in the Student Involvement and Leadership Convocation series will be New York Times best-selling author and youth advocate Wes Moore. On Feb. 22, Moore will speak in the Wildcat Theater about his life experiences and how people can overcome adversity and become motivated to face their problems.
For more information on the Convocations series, go to weber.edu/StudentInvolvement/convocations