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Overcoming obstacles focus of guest speaker

GRANDVIEW - Community members last Thursday night at Grandview High School heard about the obstacles and handicaps of life from Bob Mortimer.

He shared his "handy cap" is his only "handy cap" in life, although he is missing an arm and two legs as a result of a crash he and his brother were in when he was younger. His brother and he had been to a party and both were under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Mortimer's brother was driving the vehicle the two were in and crashed into a utility pole.

"We didn't know the power lines were down...we thought we had gotten away with a great story to tell," he shared.

Leaving the vehicle, Mortimer was quickly shocked into reality as he walked into one of the power lines. His left arm and both his legs were burned severely.

"Harborview was my home for the next six months," he recalled.

Mortimer didn't open up with that story, however. He talked to those at Thursday night's events about what he shares with youngsters, a message to the students about being your best.

"Anything less is a handicap," Mortimer shared.

He said a poor attitude and low self-esteem can be handicaps to being one's best.

"Self-esteem is how one views themselves and as individuals we have the power to change it ourselves," the speaker noted.

He said everyone is unique and they must learn to be comfortable with the fact that they are different from others.

"You do not need to be like anyone else," Mortimer stated.

By accepting yourself, others, he said, might be more willing to accept you.

Speaking from his own experiences, Mortimer said he has had to learn to be comfortable in his own skin.

"I especially emphasize this with girls," he said, stating media and advertisers have done well to promote the message to girls that they aren't good enough.

"I believe this generation is the best generation America has ever produced. It is also the most sedentary generation," Mortimer continued, stating he advises teens to become more active.

Noting all the technological advances, he said the youngsters of today spend too much time sitting instead of exercising.

He believes there must be a counter-balance to the sedentary time and that will improve a person's health, as well as their outlook on themselves.

"There's nothing they can't do," Mortimer said, pointing to himself and sharing he rides a bicycle.

"It's actually a handcycle," he noted, sharing he and his family rode their bikes across America for four months on a tour last year.

"As adults, it's important to be good leaders of the family," Mortimer advised his audience.

Another handicap many deal with in life, he said, is that of prejudice.

He said picking on, judging and bullying another person prevents an individual from being their best self.

"Everybody deserves dignity and respect," Mortimer shared.

He shares this message most often with middle school students, challenging them to look at how they treat others.

"I tell students to stop laughing at the behavior...it encourages others to continue with the behavior," Mortimer said.

Next, he said he tells youngsters to stand up against any behavior that belittles another person.

"Most will have to begin with an apology because they have been guilty of it, as well," he shared.

Mortimer said another piece of advice he provides is, "There isn't one word that comes out of your mouth that you didn't tell it to say. You have the power over your tongue, so stop it."

Alcohol and drugs is a big issue that prevents an individual from being their best self, said Mortimer.

He knows many teens will not like the statement, and believe they are doing well although they abuse substances.

"When I tell them, 'You cannot use alcohol and other drugs and be your best, period,' I also am making a concrete statement," said Mortimer.

He said he asks the audience to challenge concrete statements like his when they are made by adults.

Mortimer said he engages his young audiences and asks them to make him prove his statement.

He proves his point, sharing his insight about choices.

"It's a wrong choice the first time, it's a wrong choice the second time and it's a wrong choice the last time," said Mortimer.

An individual might be good at something in spite of consuming alcohol or doing drugs, but he said they will be better if they don't abuse substances.

"Therefore they aren't their best if they choose to use alcohol or drugs," he said, adding they are crippling themselves and creating their own handicap through substance use.

Mortimer then turned to his personal story. He chose to handicap himself, wearing a fa├žade when he was a youngster because his father was an alcoholic.

He was 16-years-old when his father died and his mother chose to move the family to Hoquiam.

Mortimer began to party, looking for acceptance.

"I wanted someone willing to tell me three words... 'I love you'," he shared. He allowed himself to hide behind a "mask" so that he might be accepted.

The party environment provided him a level of acceptance that wasn't healthy.

Following his time at Harborview, the partying did not stop. "I looked in the mirror believing no one would accept and love me," Mortimer recalled.

He said those around him accepted him because he was bringing drugs and alcohol to the parties, but he eventually hit bottom and those friends were not helpful.

Mortimer said, "I had one strong friend who made me realize my attitude, self-esteem, mask and substance abuse were handicaps."

That friend provided him with the courage and the strength to overcome his handicaps and learn to like who he is on the inside as well as who he is on the outside.

He married her six months after meeting her.

Mortimer also earned his high school diploma and went to college. He said his story is a success story because he learned to overcome obstacles and handicaps.

"We need to understand the choices we make affect the generation that follows," he concluded.

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