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Finding Inspiration

March 16, 2012

On March 13, I had the privilege of attending the 25th Anniversary celebration at the University of Alberta for the Rick Hansen Man in Motion tour. At the talk, Rick recounted his powerful story of being paralyzed at the age of 15 in a motor vehicle accident. He went on to talk about the inspiration he found in his coaches and his continued passion for sports and community, finishing with the story of his 40,000 km journey through 34 countries in his wheelchair to change the world’s perception of what disability means and to raise money for spinal cord injury research.

During the talk, Craig Simpson, a former Edmonton Oiler who also spoke at the event, made a comment after Rick Hansen had spoken that really hit home for me. He said that during his hockey career, he had a breakthrough game where he played the best he had ever played, but it was still probably only as good as an okay day for someone like Wayne Gretzky. However, this did not detract from what he considered to be a great accomplishment; it was okay to have accomplished less than someone who had already done what he had set out to do, as what mattered was that he reached his own summit.  He knew that his accomplishments could be considered less momentous than what Rick Hansen had accomplished in his tour around the world, but to him, being friends with Rick and supporting him to the best of his ability was enough.

As a current student, this was a message that resonated with me. Getting into a high level graduate program required all of us to compete to be the best in our undergrad classes, an attitude that I found myself bringing with me into the speech program. Looking to the future, it is very easy to fear not being the best SLP out there, especially when I am surrounded by brilliant classmates and faculty. However, taking Craig’s words to heart, it is not about being better than any other SLP. It is about finding your own definition of ability, and finding your own best examples of success. When we adopt this attitude, we find the courage to become leaders in our communities and change the worlds of our clients in our own individual ways.

As Speech Pathologists we will probably not find ourselves wheeling around the world to try to make a difference. I can not even fathom the physical and mental strength a journey like that would require. However, we will definitely be engaging in life changing work. Our profession may come along with uncertainty and an element of fear as we find ourselves faced with types of clients that we may have never seen before and not know how to help. However, as Agnes Hoveland (another guest panelist and University of Alberta Senator) put it, courage and leadership is about being brave enough to try even when you have no idea what to do or what will happen.

The first statement of the above video was “Every time we reach an obstacle we believe with all our heart that somehow, some way, there is a way over it, under it, around it, or through it.” Rick Hansen’s wise words could be my mantra as a future speech pathologist, as I try to the best of my ability to advocate for and help my clients to overcome speech, language and communication difficulties in anyway possible. I do not need to be the SLP that gets the most awards, does the most research, or helps the most clients, I just need to believe that I am the best I can be for my clients, and that I am making a difference to them!

To learn more about the Rick Hansen Foundation and to donate to spinal cord injury research, visit his website at

— Adele Courchesne

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Noriko permalink
    March 16, 2012 11:39 am

    Fantastic post.

  2. Lyla Fee permalink
    March 16, 2012 4:04 pm

    Congratulations Adele on a well written document! I am so proud of your passion. Continue to put your best foot forward in all you do, and remember what comes around, goes around.
    You Rock Girl!

  3. Julia permalink
    March 18, 2012 1:34 am

    Great job Adele. Very powerful and important message!

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