James Brady, the former White House press secretary who was shot in an assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981, spoke Tuesday at the Marvin Center as part of activities for GW’s Disability Awareness Week.
Now a gun control advocate, he suffers from a brain injury that he incurred when he shot in the head while at the president’s side.
Once an active man, Brady now is confined to a wheelchair and the left side of his body is paralyzed. He said he has no short-term memory, no coordination, no control over his emotions and is legally blind.
But despite this, Brady said he continues to work for organizations that help disabled people across the country and now serves as a source of inspiration for multitudes of handicapped people.
“No one got anywhere by looking at a glass of water and saying it was half empty,” Brady said.
With that in mind, Brady said he has made the best of his situation. With a strong voice carried by a southern drawl, he travels throughout the country in an effort to get people to “learn more about the lives of those persons with disabilities.”
That is the goal of Disability Awareness Week at GW, said Disability Support Services Director Christy Willis.
Through quick wit and humorous digressions, Brady managed to convey a strong message.
“Teamwork is essential when dealing with disabilities,” Brady said.
That can only be accomplished after the barriers of prejudice are broken down, he said.
Brady also expressed his opinion that Disability Awareness Week and the GW community as a whole have done well in building a bridge between educators, people with disabilities and the University.
“Strength is gained through tireless devotion from friends and family,” he said.
DSS serves the more than 600 disabled students who attend GW, a number that has doubled since 1993, Willis said.
“There has been terrific University support for what we do,” she said.
“Seeing things like this just changes everything,” said Jim Duncan, a GW student and cancer survivor. Duncan works for Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and serves as the assistant director of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.
Duncan said people like Brady serve as inspirational messengers. “Never stop learning, advocating, lending a helping hand,” Brady said.
He said the disabled still can be active in initiating change or providing hope for others.
“Don’t focus on the `dis,’ ” Brady said. “Focus on the `ability.’ “